Germany: Activists Lobby to Keep Aldi in Gentrified Community

A protest against the decision to cancel Aldi’s contract at a market hall in the Kreuzberg district in Berlin, Germany, drew more than 400 people, according to a story in The Guardian.

Markthalle Neun, a market hall dating to the 1800s, has been renewed and populated with boutique shops and artisanal food during the past several years. The market announced in February that it planned to cancel Aldi’s contract, kicking out the low-cost grocery store chain.

During a protest recently, hundreds of people waved signs saying things like: “Don’t mess with the [neighborhood].” Residents call the market a “luxury food porn hall.”

“We were more than a bit [surprised] there was such a large reaction,” Florian Niedermeier, co-owner of Markthalle Neun, said in The Guardian. “The departure of Aldi and other discounters was part of our plan from the beginning, and back then it was discussed a lot with residents.”

Residents are feeling the financial pinch that comes with gentrification, though. Rent went up 9.1% just in the past year. Flyers posted around the district state: “We cannot afford the rich here.” Groups against gentrification state there is a lack of affordable family housing in addition to rising costs.

The market opened in 2011 and seeks to support small-scale, sustainable producers. Vendors sell craft beer, regional cheese, organic wine, handmade pasta, tofu made on site, organic ice cream, and barbecue. Burgers sells for €8 each, and a bottle of craft beer runs around €4.

Meanwhile the families of 40% of children in Kreuzberg get state assistance, and the welfare allowance to feed a 5-year-old child is less than €3 a day, according to The Guardian.

Activist Andreas Wildfang says a croissant at the market costs more than €1.50, but Aldi’s croissants are €0.40.

“Of course I am not advocating for Aldi [specifically], but for a market hall with basic groceries that fit residents’ budgets,” Wildfang told The Guardian. “You can say the situation is ironic, but it’s not ironic when you have damn little money.”

Zeit Online remarks that Aldi is a profitable company with more than 4,000 stores just in Germany, and therefore it hardly needs any help or encouragement, but residents who struggle financially do not look forward to the loss of the discount grocer.

Some of Berlin’s restaurant operators and foodies have criticized the protesters on social media, expressing concern for farmers and food producers who are exploited through low prices.

Hendrick Haase, who founded Kumpel & Keule butcher shop at the market, tweeted, “We have to talk about why many parts of our society cannot afford food at a real price, not how to keep those alive who practice price dumping.”

Markthalle Neun also states on its website that there are other discount supermarkets within a 2-kilometer radius.

Source: The Guardian, Zeit Online, and Merkur

About Rachael

Rachael is a freelance writer and editor. You can read more of her work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com.

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