By Esther Vivas
It’s summer, school is ending, and Spanish families’ increasing concern is no longer ‘what are the kids going to do during the holidays,’ but ‘what will they eat’. In Spain, according to UNICEF, 20% of children now live below the poverty line. Hunger is no longer an issue for the global south, it is knocking on our door.
Earlier this year, in Barcelona 2,865 children were found to have nutritional deficiencies. In Andalusia, the regional government has begun to distribute breakfast and snacks to more than 50,000 children who are at risk of exclusion. In 2010, a report by Foessa Foundation, noted that about 29,000 families with children were going hungry in Spain. Two years on, how many will be affected? Undoubtedly, many more.
But it is not only the data that indicates that childhood hunger is on the rise; what is experienced in numerous schools points in the same direction: children fainting in class because they are not eating, others so hungry they are devouring everything in the cafeteria, and bread with bread for breakfast. The stories, sadly, are endless. You only need to ask, and listen, to those working in schools in neighbourhoods and cities that are hardest hit by the crisis.
Malnutrition is the other face of hunger. As indicated by the Spanish Agency for Food Safety, 17% of children living below the poverty line are obese, twice the level among those without financial difficulties. The crisis makes fresh food, fruit, vegetables, fish and meat inaccessible. And so the diet of the poorest sections of society deteriorates rapidly. You buy little and cheaply, and eat poorly.
The spiral of unemployment, want, evictions and hunger entraps more and more families. And the demands for help for food are increasing at the same rate as our rights are reduced and austerity cuts applied. Central government looks the other way and the regional administrations swing the axe. The much vaunted Spanish “brand” is synonymous with poverty and child hunger.
The causes of hunger are political, whether in the global south or on our doorstep. Food cannot be a business in the hands of a few companies. Eating well means justice and democracy in the production, distribution and consumption of food. While politics remains kidnapped by the markets, banking, agribusiness and many other captains of capital, we cannot live in peace nor eat well.
El Publico 11/07/2013
Translation by Revolting Europe