The Food Bank in Antequera gave out 340,000 kilos of groceries last year. :: A. J. GUERRERO
There may be big headlines in the media and macroeconomic statistics showing an improved and more optimistic scenario for the Spanish economy in 2014, but for hundreds of thousands of families all over the country the daily suffering caused by the economic crisis shows no sign of coming to an end. The fact that unemployment benefit is only paid for a certain time and the difficulties experienced in finding work have resulted in dozens of social initiatives being set up with the aim of helping families with few resources to put food on their tables or pay their water and electricity bills every month.
In Malaga province, and taking into account only the biggest towns, at least 20,000 people depend directly on this type of social assistance, which is available thanks to the quiet and altruistic work of hundreds of thousands of people, through the NGOs, associations, institutions and companies that donate food, prepare meals and organise deliveries. This week, Cruz Roja Española announced that it is to distribute 20 million kilos and litres of food throughout the country, of which nearly one million (912,456 kilos) will be given out to 124 associations and public organisations in Malaga province. Milk, lentils, rice, chickpeas, prepared baby food and cereals, cheese, pasta, biscuits, green beans, flour, tinned fruits and olive oil will help the thousands of families who have so little money that they cannot afford to go shopping.
One of the initiatives that has been set up in the province is in Rincón de la Victoria, where nearly 200 local families are able to fill a shopping trolley with enough food for a month for about 20 euros, because the Town Hall is selling the items at cost price. Since being set up last summer this same initiative has also organised two huge food donation campaigns , through which it collected nearly 10,000 kilos, and it works in conjunction with the Asociación Benéfico Social Rincón del Moral, a charitable organisation whose president is Juan Luis Fernández.
In Vélez-Málaga the Asociación contra la Pobreza y la Exclusión Social was set up in 2007 by the San Juan parish church and local religious brotherhoods, and it has the support of a large group of volunteers. The Banco de Alimentos (Bancosol) food bank also works with this association. It was set up to provide food for families in need and at that time it helped only a dozen families. Now, seven years later, more than 350 families in this municipality in La Axarquía depend on it.
This is not the only association to have been set up in the capital of La Axarquía region to help the needy, because during the past year two social canteens have also opened: one is run by the Asociación de Trabajadores por la Integración Social (ATIS) and the other is managed by the Emaús association and was set up by the local group of religious brotherhoods and financed initially by the extra salary payments normally paid to councillors and Town Hall staff. These two canteens provide free meals for 440 families each month.
On the western Costa del Sol there has also been an increase in this type of initiative. In Fuengirola, the Food Bank was set up in 2009 after more than two decades of inactivity. In the past year it has assisted 1,170 families. In Benalmádena about 600 families are helped by the Food Bank and the ‘Caravana Solidaria’.
A social canteen also opened in Benalmádena at the end of 2011 and it is now attended by about 500 people. In Torremolinos, assistance for people with few resources is channelled through Cáritas, and there is also a social canteen which is run by Emaús. This began operating in 1997 to help those in risk of social exclusion, especially drug addicts, although with the economic crisis it has adapted and now assists 160 people.
In Mijas a food bank has been operating for several years, coordinated by Cruz Roja. Last year the council set aside money for the purchase of non-perishable foodstuffs in order to guarantee resources for the food bank, and the application period for the contract to manage the purchase of these products, which will cost about 80,000 euros this year, will be closing any day now. This year, children’s food and hygiene products will also be included.
In Ronda, about 400 families receive food parcels, says the councillor for Social Welfare, Concepción Muñoz. The Good Samaritan Association has set up a food bank, and a social canteen which offers meals for 50 cents will begin operating in the near future and will benefit 100 families.
In the Serranía de Ronda, however, there are no food banks to help those in difficulties because of the crisis. Jubrique and Arriate are organising help through their Town Halls, and they assist about 150 families. Cuevas del Becerro has set up a food bank and an association, La Cueva Solidaria, which is formed by local organisations and political parties. Another of the municipalities which has had to tackle the problem of a difficult social situation is Cortés de la Frontera, where the neediest families receive vouchers for 50 euros to spend in local shops.
In the Guadalhorce area there are still no social canteens or food banks. The social services departments and the Cáritas and Cruz Roja organisations do what they can. In the bigger towns, such as Coín, there are free food deliveries each week which assist more than 200 families, a number which has doubled in a year. As well as donations of food, Cáritas and Cruz Roja also help those most in need with electricity and water bills, mortgage payments and even insurance policies.
In 2008, the Plataforma Antequera Solidaria was set up in Antequera to start a food bank,with the help of the Town Hall. Last year 800 families received 340,000 kilos of food products. In Estepona, the food bank was set up three years ago, thanks to Juan Manuel Muñoz, a retired man who began coordinating the work of this organisation. “Before, volunteers used to come from Marbella, but many of them didn’t know the town. It was better to have something based here,” he explains.
In Marbella, 23 associations are helped by the food bank. The volume of food that leaves the warehouse on La Campana industrial estate never ceases to grow and currently does so at a rate of 100,000 kilos a year. Last year 300,000 kilos were donated. “What we would like is to no longer exist because we are not needed, but that shows no signs of happening”, says Carlos de la Torre, who is in charge of an association upon which 7,500 local people rely.