A photo of people in the country to represent who hunger in Spain can impact.
With more than 10 years of recovery from the eurozone crisis that was particularly devastating to Spain, the nation’s economy has been relatively successful and demonstrated steady growth. Despite this recovery, Spain’s poverty rate has risen since the crisis. Its unemployment rate is also more than double the EU average, with concerning levels of youth unemployment. Lockdowns due to COVID-19 have only worsened conditions, causing food insecurity for millions of Spaniards. Prior to the pandemic, Spain had maintained a consistent low hunger rate similar to those of other EU countries at just 2.5%. Amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, Spain’s government and outside organizations are trying to help those who have been impacted by hunger in Spain.

The Impact of Lockdowns

Prior to the pandemic, Spain had high poverty or near poverty rates as well as high unemployment rates. While hunger rates had been kept low, there is a fine line between poverty and going hungry.

Since Spain went into lockdown, 1.6 million people have been assisted by The Red Cross in order to feed themselves and their families. This is more than five times the amount helped in 2019. In Madrid, more than 100,00 people are looking to neighborhood charities and government services for aid. The demand for basic necessities has also risen by more than 30% since the pandemic hit.

Governmental Response

In May 2020, Spain’s government, led by Pedro Sanchez, introduced a minimum monthly payment to protect vulnerable families. The plan “will cost around €3 billion per year, will help four out of five people in severe poverty and benefit close to 850,000 households, half of which include children.” Since his election in 2018, the prime minister had spoken of plans to implement this subsidy, but the pandemic accelerated this process.

Accessing Government Aid

Local organizations report that accessing government services is difficult and can be a source of shame for newly affected families. These government systems can also become overwhelmed, thereby more difficult to access. People can also be blocked from registering if they do not have adequate documentation. This leaves charities and neighborhood organizations to provide additional food and supplies for those who cannot access government aid. Foodbank providers also report that an influx of informal economy workers and tourism employees have been turning to food banks since Spain implemented its strict lockdown.

Looking to the Future

The government responded to increased hunger in Spain with subsidies to help citizens put food on the table. However, Spain is also a popular destination for a record number of immigrants, many of whom do not have access to these subsidies due to the lack of documentation. The service industry, which suffered immensely under lockdowns, was also the primary employer of foreigners in Spain. This is where local groups can and are stepping in to make a positive change, trying to reach those who lack access to governmental resources. 

– Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s growth in the global financial economy has made the country a beacon of rapid development and opulence. Behind the image of luxurious expansion lurks a harsh reality of inequality and growing rates of hunger. A Hong Kong nonprofit aims to help the city’s bounty feed all.

As a major port city and a booming hub of global trade, Hong Kong’s GDP continues to grow. Trading Economics’ data indicates that Hong Kong’s GDP growth in 2016 has nearly doubled since its GDP growth in 2015. This wealth, however, is distributed disproportionately.

The CIA World Factbook designates Hong Kong’s level of income inequality as the tenth worst in the world, and the U.N. Development Program claims Hong Kong has the highest level of income inequality among highly developed nations.

Data on poverty and hunger illuminate these inequities. According to Trading Economics, the poverty line in Hong Kong is HK$ 3,275 per month (about $422) with an hourly minimum wage of HK$ 32 (roughly $4). Twenty percent of Hong Kong’s population currently lives below this threshold, leaving many citizens food insecure.

In light of these concerns, the South China Morning Post reported that the U.N. considered opening a World Food Program (WFP) office in Hong Kong in 2013, citing the region as an appropriate candidate for further attention.

However, the U.N. never established an office, leaving Hong Kong without a concrete inter-governmental organization to deal with the growing issue of food insecurity. Gabrielle Kirstein, co-founder and executive director of Feeding Hong Kong, aimed to address hunger in Hong Kong by creating a nonprofit that would divert food waste to feed those in need.

Feeding Hong Kong (FHK) is a self-proclaimed “Hong Kong food bank with a difference.” By accepting usable food donations from corporate partners, restaurants, grocery stores and delis, FHK creates a supply chain that directs surplus food into the hands of over 25 charities and community organizations that address poverty and hunger. It is the only nonprofit of its kind in Hong Kong.

To ensure the continued effectiveness of the program, FHK thoughtfully distributes the food it collects to its constituent organizations. For example, FHK deliberately addresses the needs of children’s welfare programs differently than those of adults. FHK aims to address hunger in Hong Kong by supporting these already established organizations in their endeavors to provide essential services.

FHK functions in a dense urban environment by harnessing the resources around it. For FHK’s annual event, “Chefs in the Community,” culinary professionals volunteer with local charities to improve their food services. The Feeding Hong Kong Cookbook Collection is sold to generate funds for the nonprofit, while spreading awareness of how to reduce food waste, even in a personal kitchen setting.

Despite growing rates of hunger in Hong Kong, FHK has established a network to solve several issues associated with rapid urban development. By creating an organization that supports those around it, FHK aims to spread the wealth of the nation by eradicating hunger, one meal at a time.

Laurel Klafehn

Photo: Flickr

Social Supermarket Buys Out Hunger in Cornwall

England is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but it faces a major food crisis. Last year, close to 100,000 children went hungry. In London alone, 80,000 people earn less than the cost of living. They can’t afford daily, nutritious meals.

In recent years, England has been turning toward a new kind of store to fight hunger and poverty. Social supermarkets, “shop[s] selling discounted food to people on a low income,” have been multiplying since 2013.

Cornwall is the latest area to welcome the new market. Hunger in Cornwall is a serious matter. The Food Bank hands out 9,000 meals every month to poor families.

Charlotte Danks, 20, used her entrepreneurial skills to open a social supermarket in the town of Newquay. Bargain Brand Food Outlet receives its stock from supermarkets who discard the products because of manufacturing flaws, package damage and expired sell-by dates. Many items sell for 25 pence, or 39 cents in U.S. currency.

“If I come in here and buy a loaf for 20 pence, I’ve got money for gas,” Richard Benson, a regular social supermarket customer, told The Guardian.

Social supermarkets do more than save people money; they save food. According to the European Commission, the UK is responsible for the majority of food waste in the European Union—89 million tons per year.

Restocking products keeps them out of landfills and saves supermarkets from paying landfill tax. In turn, tax avoidance encourages markets to donate to their social counterparts.

Because the supplies come from larger stores and franchises, the stock varies from day to day. Some days, chocolate products outweigh meat and vegetables. Everything is first come first serve. Most stores require a card membership to prevent anyone but the needy from taking advantage of the low prices.

The emergence of social supermarkets opens several more job opportunities, lessening the number of struggling households. Danks plans to open two more stores in the next six months in the hope of eradicating poverty and hunger in Cornwall.

“I hope I can bring this to other struggling communities,” Danks told The Telegraph.

England isn’t alone in its efforts to resolve the food crisis through food redistribution. France, which already boasts 800 social supermarkets, unanimously banned stores from disposing of food earlier this May. Instead, stores are required to donate edible food to charities.

If the spread of social supermarkets and food waste elimination continue, hunger in Cornwall, England, Europe and the world could be bought out for good.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Coin Mill, Collins Dictionary, Food and Cornwall, Independent, London Food Bank, Telegraph, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2
Photo: Pixabay