Greek EasyJet owner hands out free meals in Athens to those who can't afford to eat

Around 2,500 people visit Stelios Haji-loannou's Food From the Heart Foundation deports a day to receive lunch time snacks

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The Independent Online

As eurozone chiefs battle over Greek bailout requests and looming referendums, one billionaire businessman is taking to the streets to play his part in easing the country’s financial crisis.

Stelios Haji-loannou, the Athens-born founder and owner of EasyJet, has been giving away free meals to people in the Greek capital, as banks remain closed in the country and cash withdrawals are capped at €60 a day.

Haji-Ioannou launched the charity, Food From the Heart Foundation two years ago to “help alleviate the hardship from the current economic crisis” by giving away meals to people in need that would otherwise cost them around €4 in a supermarket.

People line up in Athens for lunch from Food From the Heart Foundation

Currently, at least 5,000 Athenians have registered with the charity since last summer and around 2,500 people visit their food deports a day to receive lunch time snacks which include halloumi cheese sandwiches and praline filled croissants.

The program now has five distribution centres including one in Athens and four in Nicosia and Limassol, Cyprus. But Haji-Ioannou hopes it will be an initiative that one day will become “obsolete”.

Sandwiches prepared to give out to people in Athens visiting Food From the Heart Foundation

He told the Evening Standard: “They are walking and queuing to receive something worth €4! It shows how much poverty and desperation there is.”

It remains for Haji-Ioannou, however, a “bittersweet project”. “I sincerely hope to be obsolete," he said, "On the day when we open the shutters and there are only 10 people queuing, we can declare victory.”

Haji-Ioannou left Greece 25 years ago and now resides in Monaco. He was placed at number 36 on 2015’s Sunday Times Rich List and his main charity, the Stavros Narchos Foundation, has donated €100 million since 2012 to their Initiative Against the Greek Crisis and already has announced plans to donate another €100 million within the next year.