When a group of farmers handed out free fruit and veg in front of the Ministry of Agriculture in Athens Wednesday, they couldn't have predicted the ensuing chaos. In just two hours hoardes of hungry Greeks scrabbled to get their share of 50 tons of hand-outs, which led to skirmishes in the streets and comparisons with Nazi occupied Greece in the World War II.
Families and the unemployed queued up to catch rations given out from vans. "Look", an old man gestured on local TV, "they're pulling supplies out of the trucks. It's like war time." "My pension is worth 600 euro", said another elderly woman, "and me and my three unemployed kids have to live on that".
A former electrician said, "I've been out of work for three years. I've done everything possible to find a job. A bag of tomatoes and some broccoli will last me and my wife a week".
Aside from those Greeks who are open about their new found poverty, a separate social group called the "kryfoptochi" is emerging. The kryfoptochi are too embarassed to even admit to friends that they are poverty struck, and rather than heading for soup kitchens, forage for food in dumpsters in the dead of night. In evidence of the fact that the crisis is hitting everyone hard, Giorgos Apostolopoulos, former chief of the Athen's homeless body, said that well known artists and even women from rich areas of the city come to get food handouts too.
"Some pretend that they're collecting food to give to the poor", he said. But a silent form of solidarity is taking shape. Those who can afford it hang baskets of food on their bins for the poor.