Inflation takes its toll on food banks: “More families arrive, but we find ourselves with less food” | Economy

A volunteer from the Food Bank collaborates in the entity's warehouse this Wednesday in Madrid.
A volunteer from the Food Bank collaborates in the entity’s warehouse this Wednesday in Madrid.Sergio Perez (EFE)

For 21 years, from Wednesday to Friday at nine in the morning, the Madrina Foundation has started the food distribution service for the most disadvantaged. Yet his warehouse shelves, which at the start of the pandemic were overflowing with food, are now a distant memory. Galloping inflation, together with the economic difficulties triggered by the health crisis, have hindered the distribution of essential goods to the most vulnerable families, according to charitable associations. “In the last year we have been assisting around 400 people a day. But more and more arrive and we find ourselves with less food,” says Jesica Flores, a psychologist and food distributor for the Foundation.

In 2021, before the war in Ukraine and the explosion of inflation, food banks served 1.5 million users, according to figures from the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL). A number that is estimated to increase by 20% in 2022. “When the economy begins to falter, an increase in the population that finds itself in a precarious situation is inevitable. The set of circumstances that have occurred in the last two years —the pandemic, the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine— have pushed middle-class families into poverty who previously did not need to ask for help”, says Pedro Miguel Llorca, president Of the entity. In parallel, uncertainty holds donors back. “Any family tries to settle their accounts and becomes cautious. It is much more difficult to be generous in this climate of insecurity”, he adds.

Fundación Madrina receives around 50% of the food from the Food Aid Operational Program of the European Fund for Aid to the Disadvantaged (FEAD). If until now they had guaranteed three deliveries a year, now they have been reduced to two, laments the president of the entity, Conrado Jiménez. “In March, we should have collected food, but nothing has been sent to us. We have had to resort to private companies and donations so as not to run out of supplies”. Donations from individuals have also been reduced as a result of the increase in the cost of the shopping basket. “Before they brought us a car full of food, whereas now they come with two bags,” he adds.

At half past twelve this Friday morning, just over an hour before the end of the distribution, there are barely a dozen apples and oranges left in the warehouse baskets. Tuna cans and oil bottles are also not abundant. Some trays are empty. “Fortunately, some boxes of yogurt have just arrived, but for now we only have pasta and cans of vegetables until Wednesday,” says Flores.

scarcer deliveries

Inflation in April stood at 8.3%, according to the National Institute of Statistics, below the 9.8% in March. Even so, the costs of some basic foods are still through the roof compared to April 2021. Olive oil is up 42.5%, pasta 25% and eggs 21.6%. The escalation of prices continues to reduce the pockets of Spanish families, who, by losing purchasing power, find themselves even more on the tightrope. “One day, suddenly, desperate mothers appear, pregnant or with very young children who have never had to ask for help. They unburden themselves to me and tell me that they have to choose between eating and paying the rent”, assures the psychologist.

He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.


Sara Irik (42 years old) has been going to the Fundación Madrina food bank for more than a year. She has not been slow to realize that in recent months, when she returns to her home in the Madrid neighborhood of Valdeacederas, the bag weighs less and less. “Before they gave me a box of milk with six bottles, while now only a couple. Fortunately, the neighbors also sometimes help me, otherwise I would not be able to feed my four children”, she says. Rosemery Robles (37 years old) lives a similar situation: “At first they gave me a lot of vegetables, but now I receive very little. They offer me the right amount of milk for the child, for me there is almost never any, ”she says, as she pushes the baby stroller with the basket full of yogurt.

The charitable association Bocatas, which serves some 300 families each month, has also detected that since the rise in 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 we had to look for other entities to get rid of the bottles we had left. Pasta and rice, which we distributed very generously, are sometimes scarce,” says Ignacio Rodríguez, one of the organization’s founders.

According to the most up-to-date data from Cáritas, three out of ten Spanish families have had to cut food, clothing or footwear expenses in 2021. Although the organization does not yet have the data for the first months of this year, it forecasts that the increase of the expenses for the increase in prices overwhelm them even more. “The pandemic has already had a very strong impact on family income, and inflation is causing a major setback, especially for the most vulnerable subjects, who have less capacity to face unforeseen events. It rains on wet ”, points out Thomas Ubrich, sociologist of the study team of Cáritas Spain. The figures from the Madrid Food Bank leave no room for doubt: in the first quarter of 2022 it has already served 187,000 people, more than in all of last year (180,000). But with 40% fewer donations.

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