As the Eurozone gropes for a solution to the massive Greek debt crisis, many people are struggling to withdraw their own money from ATMs, let alone put food on the table.
Against the crisis, one man is trying to help the hungry. EasyJet founder, billionaire and Greek native Stelios Haji-loannou has been handing out free meals to Athenians through his charity, the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation. Currently nearly 2,500 people get food each day through the foundation's Food From The Heart initiative, which Haji-loannou launched two years ago. The meals would cost about 4 euros, or about $4.44, in a supermarket.
“They are walking and queuing to receive something worth 4 euros. It shows how much poverty and desperation there is,” Haji-Ioannou told the Evening Standard.
The meals are provided to anyone who registers with the charity, no questions asked. The number of food recipients could double in the coming weeks, a communications official with the foundation said, but the charity will be able to "satisfy demand" throughout ongoing economic hardship.
Greece shut down financial institutions throughout the country on Monday in an effort to stave off a bank run and limited daily withdrawals to 60 euros until July 6. Many Greek citizens have been self-organizing food aid to help a growing segment of the population that can't afford meals, Al Jazeera America reported. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of Greeks unable to afford food doubled to 18 percent, an OECD report found. A staggering 26 percent of Greek citizens are unemployed.
Haji-Ioannou called the provision of free meals a "bittersweet project" that he hopes will someday be unnecessary.
"On the day when we open the shutters and there are only 10 people queuing, we can declare victory,” he said.