MADRID (AFP) -- Hugo Ramirez never thought that one day he would have to turn to food aid. After all, he has a permanent job in the construction industry.
But record inflation has pushed the bricklayer to take the plunge: otherwise, it would be impossible to make ends meet.
“We see prices going up every week, even on basic products... We can’t manage it anymore,” says the 44-year-old, standing in front of pallets of fruit and vegetables at the foot of a large brick building in the south of Madrid.
Every Saturday, he comes to collect food from an association created during the pandemic in the working-class neighborhood of Aluche to help residents in difficulty.
“I earn €1,200 a month and my wife €600” for a part-time job as a home help. “But we have three children”, explains Hugo, originally from Venezuela. “Once we have paid the €800 in rent and the €300 in various charges, we don’t have much left.”
Every weekend, thousands of people like Hugo queue up at various places in the Spanish capital to get food. The phenomenon has been compounded in recent months by soaring inflation.
“Every week we see new families in need, especially since the war in Ukraine,” Raul Calzado, a volunteer with the Mutual Aid Network of Aluche (Rama), told AFP. He says he has seen mothers “stopping buying feminine hygiene products so they can feed their children”.
The association currently helps 350 households, distributing seven tonnes of food a week with the help of the food bank. Raul predicts that at this rate the number will rise to 400 by the end of the year.
A dozen volunteers are busy in a room filled with pasta, canned food and nappies. Others take care of families lined up outside, many of them immigrants.
“Some of the recipients have no income. But we also have more and more pensioners with small pensions or people who work but whose pay is insufficient,” says the association’s vice president Elena Bermejo. “For some families, even buying a litre of olive oil or a kilo of lentils has become difficult.”
According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute, food prices rose by 15.4% year-on-year in October, the worst figure for nearly 30 years. The price of sugar even jumped by 42.8% and vegetables by 25.7%.
The left-wing Spanish government has multiplied measures in recent months to help people with the cost of living. But welfare groups say they’re not enough.