Hunger in SpainSpain is considered to be a developed country, however, some people in Spain still do not have access to adequate food and nutritional needs. In numbers, 26.1% of people were reported as being at risk of poverty in January 2020. The number can be linked to the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past 20 years, Spain has shown remarkable resilience as a country, by weathering the 2008 recession and economic difficulties. Hunger in Spain is an issue that has been exacerbated by the onset of COVID-19 but initiatives are helping to address the problem.

3 Initiatives Addressing Hunger in Spain

  1. Minimum Vital Income. In the second quarter of 2020, Spain’s unemployment rate rose to 15.33%. Due to COVID-19, many people in Spain lost their jobs. A direct result of reduced employment in Spain has been a rise in food insecurity, which means that more people are struggling to put food on the table. To combat these difficult conditions, Spain’s government is proposing the introduction of ingreso mínimo vital (minimum vital income). This long-considered program has been kickstarted by need due to COVID-19. According to Spanish records shared with the EU, requests for government assistance due to COVID-19 reached seven million people. A national minimum income was introduced to provide people living in poverty with monthly assistance payments, allowing them access to food and other vital resources, much like the function of unemployment benefits in the United States. The money will provide financial aid to 2.5 million people.

  2. Colas del Hambre (Hunger Queues). In many areas across Spain, like Madrid’s suburb of Cuzco, lines of up to 700 people form around the blocks every day in order to receive food aid from food banks. This has become the daily reality for many people during the lockdown as people struggle to get enough food to eat. These food banks are widely distributed throughout the country, allowing people from many different areas and backgrounds access to assistance. Alba Díez works for the Neighbourhood Association of Aluche (NAA) in Madrid and reported that the organization had needed to quadruple the number of food packages it delivers to those in need in the space of just one month due to the pandemic.

  3. Solidarity Fridge. Another solution to the problem of hunger in Spain is the Solidarity Fridge. It both cuts down on food waste as well as helps people experiencing food insecurity to get enough food. The Basque town of Galdakao spearheaded the project, creating a communal refrigerator. Food can be either deposited or taken from the fridge, allowing those who would otherwise scavenge through trashcans for food, to eat perfectly good food that would otherwise be thrown away by restaurants, other people or grocery stores. There are rules and food safety protocols that must be followed and the fridge is regularly cleaned and maintained by the city. The program is a success and has helped many people during tough times.

These initiatives aim to alleviate hunger in Spain and help people experiencing food insecurity that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Spain
2008 may seem like a distant memory to many, but to those still suffering the repercussions of Spain’s recession of the same year, the time has crawled by. Despite economic growth, poverty and hunger in Spain continue to affect millions.

Spain’s recession saw devastation throughout the city streets. Mothers with their children and young adults who had just begun to learn the feeling of job security, rummaged through discarded bins of leftover produce: their next meal. At local wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, produce that had rolled off trucks was spotted and hastily collected by hungry onlookers. Those not willing to scavenge in the streets turned to food pantries.

Food pantries and soup kitchens saw a 33 percent increase in visitors, all of whom had never required previous nutritional aid. Families met with the new and unexpected inability to provide for themselves felt deeply ashamed for seeking such help. Some families would even visit pantries in neighboring towns to avoid meeting anyone they knew. That was in 2012, already four years deep into the recession. Economic recovery was slow, and there was little progress toward ending hunger in Spain.

The city of Girona retaliated with a disheartening response. Instead of solving the issue of hunger, the city decided only to solve the issue of public scavenging. The city padlocked all of its supermarket trash bins. The locks were deemed a “public health precaution.” However, no such precautions were taken to aid those who had been forced to scavenge in the first place.

Miraculously, between 2015 and 2016, certain individuals set out to tackle hunger in Spain by way of repurposing food waste.

In the Basque town of Galdakao, Alvaro Saiz created Solidarity Fridge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: based on cooperation and mutual support, this fridge sits on a sidewalk in a small fenced in area. Individuals, restaurants and stores can bring their perfectly good leftovers to the fridge. Then, those in the area who are unemployed or tight on cash can take what they need.

Saiz said the idea for Solidarity Fridge started with the 2008 economic crisis. The pictures of people searching dumpsters for food got him thinking about how much food is wasted daily.

Mireia Barba went right to the source with another method to combat hunger in Spain. Barba is the founder of Espigoladors, meaning “gleaners,” an organization that takes to the fields of Catalan post-harvest. It may come as a surprise to most regular grocery shoppers, but farmers discard massive amounts of unwanted crops considered unmarketable. Espigoladors coordinates with farmers to harvest their unwanted crops and deliver them to food banks.

Like Solidarity Fridge, Espigoladors emerged out of necessity in the aftermath of the recession. Europe wastes an appalling 88 million tons of food each year, which translates to about $168 billion. In addition to feeding the hungry and improving diets, gleaning can also reduce pressure on land use and provide work for the socially excluded. The Espigoladors initiative seemed a logical solution in a country suffering from economic strain and hunger.

It is amazing what simple neighborly compassion can do in a time of need. It will take hard work and continuing innovation to improve hunger in Spain. Solidarity Fridge helped local businesses recognize the corners they were cutting by throwing out leftovers, and Espigoladors returned to the source of the hunger crisis. The bottom line is this: Spain won’t get to the root of the problem without getting a little soil on its hands.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr