• 2020.06.16
  • Hanging groceries and other initiatives
Although some shops, offices and businesses are slowly opening back up here in Italy in what is called phase 2 which started on May 4th, many families are still struggling because many people lost their jobs during this crisis and generous people are doing the grocery shopping for the less lucky ones.
There are many associations of volunteers now available: those who deliver drugs, those who shop, others who help the elderly with house chores. Someone invented an app to have citizens interact with each other during this time of loneliness since we can’t move freely from town to town, some other volunteers instead tell stories to children doing some video readings, and some others created an online platform to help kids with their school work through a virtual homework area.
There are also some initiatives put in place by the municipalities to gather together those people who would like to help others and don't know how.
In some cities around the country a spontaneous initiative started by the citizens for the citizens aims at helping people in need and it is called spesa sospesa. Spesa sospesa rhymes in Italian and it means ‘hanging groceries.’
These ‘hanging groceries’ are baskets hanging from balconies filled with pasta, bread, sugar, milk and other essential food items left by kind people so that people with financial difficulties can take what they need to get by.
The motto of this initiative (which has been promoted on television too) is “those who can, can leave something, those who can’t, can take something” meaning that people that can afford it can (and perhaps should) leave a contribution and those who can’t can take advantage of this opportunity to get some free food.

Hanging groceries are not always ‘hanging’

Some restaurants and cafés which have been closed for long now are also donating their supplies which are close to the expiration date to families in need or to local homeless shelters.
Many other volunteering activities have been initiated to help people in need and not only the ones with financial problems. There are single women with small children who cannot leave home to do the groceries, some elderly people who are alone or who have relatives in other municipalities who cannot go to the supermarket and thinking of them some groups of young volunteers have left flyers on gates to advertise their – free of charge – delivery service of groceries.

Most shops and supermarkets offer deliveries free of charge as well and many have organized a collection of food products for donations to local homeless people and animal shelters.
In fact, after having organized the ‘hanging groceries’ for the poor, some municipalities have started the same initiative but this time aimed at helping stray dogs and cats, as well as at helping domestic dogs and cats with poor owners. This is an initiative promoted by the Department for the Protection of Animals and Stray Animals.
The initiative, aimed at the collection of food for pets, has been organized with the help of all those volunteers active in the area, who despite the difficulties generated by the emergency, continue to deal with great responsibility to help the cat and dog colonies present in the territory and who offer a valid support in this particular delicate moment for the many strays present in some regions.

Hanging groceries initiative at the supermarket for people and pets in need

Some social services organizations are giving a hand to distribute meals and tents at the train stations to the homeless but they are also organizing aids to the weakest, the elderly, the disabled and the lonely people mostly supported by crowdfunding, for which tax deduction is possible in many cases.
Alongside the initiatives of the municipalities of some cities and towns, there are indeed some online solidarity networks that collect food, toys and clothes for the less fortunate citizens and they also created a phone number the elderly or anyone feeling lonely can call to chat and have some psychological support.
A study has indeed established that this crisis is facilitating the increase of cases of depression, domestic violence, child abuse and food disorders so many are the people who need help and support at this difficult time.
The regular territorial social service centers are regularly open and they have added extraordinary interventions to support a larger group of people.
For the volunteers, the Municipality has provided a series of concessions, such as the possibility to skip the line at the supermarkets and at the pharmacies to allow faster deliveries.


  • Patrizia Margherita
  • Jobtranslator, interpreter, teacher

Although she was born in Italy, she is half Italian and half American and she has become a "multicultural person" who can speak five languages. She has lived and worked in the US, Brazil, Australia, France and the UK so she considers herself a citizen of the world. When she is not teaching or translating, she likes cooking Italian food, hiking and traveling around the world...She has traveled to 80 countries and counting!

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