Rome's foreign shopkeepers offer free food to those in need

Egyptian and Albanian shopkeepers in Rome leave bags of free food on the streets outside their businesses for those suffering from the economic fallout of the Coronavirus emergency.

Albanian Edmond Prenga, who runs a bakery near Rome's Piazza Bologna, started a phenomenon that has been replicated by other local shopkeepers around Rome.

The 39-year-old Prenga, owner of the Bon Pan bakery on Via Lorenzo il Magnifico, attaches bags of bread outside his shop in the mornings, free for those in financial difficulty as a result of losing work during Italy's Coronavirus lockdown.

He leaves the bags under a message in Italian: "If you need it, this is for you", alongside Italy's message of hope: "Andrà tutto bene" (Everything will be all right).

Prenga explains the reason for this kind act: "I experienced hunger, I arrived in Italy in 1998 without a lira, I know these problems well" - he told Rome newspaper Il Messaggero - "So I decided to put out the bags with the bread, because I thought that people are ashamed to ask for food, and that it would be better to leave them there to one side.”

Italy welcomed Prenga 22 years ago and now he says he wants to pay back the favour. "We grew up with the legend of Italy as children in Albania, we dreamed of coming here. The relationship with you Italians is strong" - Prenga told Il Messaggero  - "We Albanians know poverty, today we are recovering but this has not always been the case."

Edmond Prenga. Photo Il Messaggero.

Prenga says that those who collect the bags of food are "normal people, many are Italian, they have a house to sleep in but they can no longer buy food for themselves and their children."

Referring to the decision by Albanian premier Edi Rama to send a team of 30 doctors to help Italy with its Coronavirus emergency, Prenga said: "I think Edi Rama did a beautiful thing, which shows the great heart of the Albanians and the bond with Italy."

Neighbouring traders, all foreign, followed Prenga's example, reports Il Messaggero, including the owner of the local supermarket, 38-year-old Jamal from Egypt.

"People are suffering, it is right for us to lend a hand in such a difficult moment, so when I saw on television the scene of the basket where those who can afford to place food for those who can't, I thought of starting too," says Jamal, who has been in Italy for eight years, reports Il Messaggero.

As soon as he opens his shop in the morning, Jamal prepares the bags. Inside each bag he puts two packets of pasta and biscuits, or a few bottles of passata and tinned food.

The local grocer, Tamer, also from Egypt, supplies a selection of fruit and vegetables in bags. "Inside we put a little bit of everything: tomatoes, courgettes, carrots, oranges - Tamer told Il Messaggero - "I try to change products to offer those who need them a little choice."

The shopkeepers do not want to meet the people who need the food, however, and they certainly don't want to be thanked.

"I don't like to see and be seen by these people, I don't want them to be ashamed" - Tamer continues - "But, really, there is nothing to thank us for, for us it is a duty at this terrible moment for everyone."

Cover photo Roma Fanpage

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Address Via Lorenzo il Magnifico, 00162 Roma RM, Italy

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Rome's foreign shopkeepers offer free food to those in need

Via Lorenzo il Magnifico, 00162 Roma RM, Italy