53 soup kitchens throughout BiH feed almost 18,000 people

The first mapping of soup kitchens in Bosnia and Herzegovina

February 20, 2023


The UN's World Day of Social Justice, celebrated on February 20 each year, aims to draw attention to the importance of social protection and equal access to economic, political and social rights for all. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is focusing its efforts in this regard, among other things, on assessing Bosnia and Herzegovina's progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: A world without hunger.

Although the right to food is one of the universal human rights, in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is not recognized through laws on social protection, and soup kitchens are still the basic type of assistance for providing free hot meals to people in need.

From October 2022 to February 2023, UNDP conducted the first ever mapping of the spatial distribution, capacity, number of users and other important aspects of the operation of all soup kitchens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the aim of developing specific recommendations for public policies and technical measures that contribute to reducing hunger in the country.

The conducted research showed that there are currently 53 organizations for the distribution of free meals in BiH, with 34 facilities located in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 18 facilities in the Republika Srpska and one facility in the Brčko District of BiH. The largest number of facilities are managed by humanitarian/non-profit organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The war in Ukraine has seriously disrupted global food and energy markets. The consequence of the disruption in the global market was a further increase in energy and food prices, which had already started to happen after the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the difficulty in acquiring resources at the global level.

Gradska javna kuhinja Zenica

The current number of users in 53 soup kitchens in BiH is close to 18,000. The number of users increased by nearly 500 users in 2022 compared to 2021. In 2021, there was a slight decrease in the number of users compared to 2020, which can be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. it is important to note that the number of people who face difficult access to food every day is up to ten times higher, according to estimates by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, but due to various barriers they do not exercise their right to a hot meal through soup kitchens.

The most vulnerable categories of society among the users of soup kitchens are pensioners, the unemployed, single parents, people with developmental disabilities, and members of the Roma population. It is important to note that 70% of all kitchens in Bosnia and Herzegovina provide services other than food distribution, and very good examples of social entrepreneurship organized around soup kitchen services have also been recorded.

It is worrying that almost half of the soup kitchens do not have enough financial resources to procure food, and 94% of kitchens see the overall lack of financial resources as the biggest challenge facing their soup kitchen. Less than half of soup kitchens can offer fresh fruits/vegetables as well as special products for infants and small children (48.08%), while only a small number of kitchens (21.15%) can offer meals for users with special dietary needs.

Pučka kuhinja Glamoč

It is significant that 50% of organizations consider that they do not have sufficient resources for work - equipment and aids needed to perform their activities. The most common equipment cited by kitchens as insufficient are delivery vehicles, ovens and stoves, refrigerators and kitchen appliances. UNDP responded to the basic needs of kitchens that indicated a lack of equipment, and procured ovens, refrigerators, freezers and other equipment for 19 public kitchens across the country.

The complete report on the state of soup kitchens in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Food Security Assessment for vulnerable population groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, will be published in March 2023. UNDP will continue to work with all responsible actors in society with the aim of drawing attention to a series of necessary improvements in the social protection system in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that the fight against food poverty becomes more inclusive and effective, and institutions "on the front line" such as soup kitchens would get access to the necessary means for standardizing and improving the service of providing hot meals to people in need.