Source: London Telegraph

The crisis that brought down Iceland’s economy in late 2008 threw thousands of formerly well-off families into poverty, forcing people like Iris to turn to charity to survive.

Each week, up to 550 families queue up at a small white brick warehouse in Reykjavik to receive free food from the Icelandic Aid to Families organisation, three times more than before the crisis.

Rutur Jonsson, a 65-year-old retired mechanical engineer, and his fellow volunteers spend their days distributing milk, bread, eggs and canned food donated by businesses and individuals or bought in bulk at the supermarket.

“I have time to spend on others and that’s the best thing I think I can do,” he said as he pre-packed grocery bags full of produce.

In a small, close-knit country of just 317,000 people, where everyone knows everyone, the stigma of accepting a hand-out is hard to live down and of the dozens of people waiting outside the food bank in the snow on a dreary March afternoon, Iris is the only one willing to talk.

“It was very difficult for me to come here in the beginning. But now I try not to care so much anymore,” said the weary-looking 41 year-old, who lost her job in a pharmacy last summer, as she wrung her hands nervously.

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