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Inflation hits food banks: ‘More families are coming, but we’re left with less food’

Latest NewsInflation hits food banks: 'More families are coming, but we're left with less food'

A Food Bank volunteer works at the organization’s warehouse this Wednesday in Madrid.Sergio Perez (EFE)

For 21 years now, from Wednesday to Friday at nine in the morning, the Madrina Foundation has been launching a food distribution service for the most disadvantaged. However, his warehouse shelves, which were stocked with food at the start of the pandemic, are now a distant memory. Soaring inflation, coupled with economic hardship caused by the health crisis, is hindering the distribution of essential commodities to the most vulnerable families, according to charitable associations. “Last year we helped about 400 people a day. But more and more are coming, and we are running out of food,” says Jessica Flores, psychologist and food distributor for the Foundation.

According to the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL), in 2021, before the war in Ukraine and the explosion of inflation, food banks served 1.5 million users. A number that is estimated to increase by 20% in 2022. “When the economy starts to falter, an increase in the precarious population is inevitable. The combination of circumstances that have occurred over the past two years – the pandemic, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine – have plunged middle-class families into poverty, who previously did not need to ask for help, ”says Pedro Miguel Llorca, president of The Entity. At the same time, uncertainty is holding back donors. “Any family tries to settle scores and becomes cautious. It is much harder to be generous in this atmosphere of insecurity,” he adds.

Fundación Madrina receives about 50% of its food from the European Fund for the Disadvantaged (FEAD) Operational Food Assistance Program. If until now they guaranteed three deliveries a year, now they have been reduced to two, complains the president of the company, Conrado Jimenez. “In March, we were supposed to collect food, but nothing was sent to us. We had to resort to the help of private companies and donations in order not to run out of supplies.” Donations from individuals also declined as a result of the increase in the value of the shopping cart. “They used to bring us a car full of food, but now they come with two bags,” he adds.

This Friday, at half past eleven in the morning, a little more than an hour before the end of the distribution, there were hardly a dozen apples and oranges left in the warehouse baskets. Tuna cans and oil bottles are also not plentiful. Some trays are empty. “Fortunately, a few boxes of yogurt have just arrived, but so far we only have pasta and jars of vegetables until Wednesday,” says Flores.

meager supplies

Inflation in April was 8.3%, according to the National Institute of Statistics, down from 9.8% in March. Despite this, the cost of some basic food items is still through the roof compared to April 2021. Olive oil went up by 42.5%, pasta – by 25%, and eggs – by 21.6%. The escalation in prices continues to shrink the pockets of Spanish families, who, as they lose purchasing power, find themselves in even greater difficulty. “Suddenly one day there are desperate mothers, pregnant or with very young children who have never had to ask for help. They open up to me and say that they have to choose between food and paying rent, ”says the psychologist.

He thoroughly knows all sides of the coin.


Sara Iric (42) has been going to the food bank Fundación Madrina for over a year now. It didn’t take long for him to realize that in recent months, when he returns to his home in Madrid’s Valdeacederas district, the bag weighs less and less. “I used to be given a carton of milk with six bottles, but now only a couple. Fortunately, the neighbors also sometimes help me, otherwise I would not be able to feed my four children,” she says. Rosemary Robles (37) lives in a similar situation: “At first they gave me a lot of vegetables, but now I get very little. I get the right amount of milk for my baby, and I almost never have any,” he says, pushing a stroller with a basket full of yogurts.

The charitable association Bocatas, which serves about 300 families every month, also found that due to rising inflation, the amount of food provided by food banks has decreased. “We have not been able to distribute milk for more than a month. Before, we even had leftovers and had to look for other entities to get rid of the bottles we left behind. Pasta and rice, which we distributed very generously, are sometimes in short supply,” says Ignacio Rodriguez, one of the founders of the organization.

In 2021, three out of ten Spanish families had to cut spending on food, clothes or shoes, according to the most recent figures from Cáritas. Although the organization does not yet have data for the first months of this year, it forecasts that the increase in the costs of rising prices will overburden them even more. “The pandemic has already had a very strong impact on household incomes, and inflation is taking a heavy toll, especially on the most vulnerable, who are less able to withstand unforeseen events. It’s raining in the wet,” notes Thomas Ubrich, sociologist at the Cáritas Spain research group. The numbers of the Madrid Food Bank leave no doubt: in the first quarter of 2022, it has already served 187,000 people, more than in the whole of last year (180,000). But with 40% less donations.


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