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.
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