Mission Unscripted: Food banks helping more families than ever

At the end of March, ABC food bank just outside Malaga was distributing food to 370 families locally. In the last three weeks, 187 new families have been referred to the service. New referrals continue to come in every day. Mission partner Sarah Yanez shares a snapshot from on the ground.

I work with the ABC (Asociacion Benefica Cristiana) based in our town just outside Malaga. We’ve been here about 11 years and we’ve been giving out food on a regular basis to people in that time. We give out non-perishable food: things like rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, tinned fruit, tinned fish, long-life milk, baby food for families that have babies…. So, a variety of different things. Families can come and pick up one of our long-term packages every four months, then come and get fresh produce every two weeks.

In the last three weeks with the crisis, we have had an additional 187 families directly referred to us from social services on top of our 370 regular clients.

These are families who have lost their jobs because of the lockdown. The vast majority of people, particularly in the south of Spain and the coastal areas, rely on the tourism industry. And of course, tourism has totally stopped. There are also a lot of people who work in the open-air markets, and they have all lost their jobs too.

Spain was in the process of coming out of a long crisis anyway, and unemployment rates were very high already. But now suddenly all these small businesses, people who are self-employed, people who’ve got a small family-run business, all of a sudden have no income. And people do not have a cushion to fall back on. People just do not get enough income to have a month’s worth of money in the bank. People are living hand-to-mouth, month-to-month, and under normal circumstances, most people can just about make ends meet.

Many people are now going on a month with no income whatsoever, which is why we’re seeing this huge number of people in need. We’re working much closer now with social services, which means they’re realising the extent of the problem that was already there. Even though the country is on lockdown, we have thankfully been given permission to continue working because the food banks are seen to be a necessity, certainly in our town. We’ve got letters from the ABC – should the police stop us – to say that we are approved to be moving around.

Incorporating so many new families into our system is a huge administrative task (which falls to me), but I’m hoping two of our volunteers might be able to help me with some of the work ahead of us. We really value prayer particularly for our frontline staff; the volunteers who are working in close quarters within our storage facility, sorting out the food every week, and then doing the actual distribution of food to the families when they come, all the while minimising contact. Please pray for protection from the virus for everyone on the frontline, but also for them to be an encouragement to each other and an encouragement to the families receiving food, who don’t see anybody else.

With so many new families requesting food parcels, we need more food from our suppliers. Spain’s ministry of agriculture has declared that they want the food supply chain to continue, so agricultural produce is still coming through. Supermarkets have been donating surplus stock as well recently, so that’s been brilliant. The central food bank, Bancosol, which receives all the stock and supplies all the smaller food banks including ABC, is holding a big fundraiser as well, which is bringing in more food for us to give out each week. We haven’t had to turn anyone away yet.

Published 24 April 2020
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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