The Catholic charity, Caritas, said in a report this year that it had fed nearly one million hungry Spaniards in 2010, over twice as many as in 2007. In 2011, the number fed by the charity had increased by 65,000.
Excessive government spending and a shrinking economy bedeviled by a 25 percent unemployment rate has many Spaniards who used to enjoy steady incomes looking for food wherever they can find it, including dumpsters, according to a New York Times report.
Like Greece, Spain has introduced austerity measures to cut jobs, salaries, pensions and benefits of Spaniards as the economy continues to weaken and the government can no longer afford social programs long taken for granted by its citizens.
Spain’s government raised the value-added tax three percentage points, to 21 percent, on most goods, and two percentage points on many food items, which has worsened the food crisis.
However, things are likely to get worse before they get better in the economically embattled country. Regional governments, facing government defunding of social programs, are struggling with their own budget cuts by shutting down free services like school lunches for low-income families.
More people are resorting to extreme measures to feed themselves and their families, like “dumpster diving.”
“It’s against the dignity of these people to have to look for food in this manner,” said Eduardo Berloso, an official in Girona, a city that padlocked its supermarket trash bins.
Mr. Berloso proposed the padlock measure last month after hearing from social workers and seeing for himself one evening “the humiliating gesture of a mother with children looking around before digging into the bins.”
Persons were posted at the locked dumpsters to refer the hungry to emergency food shelters.
The Caritas report also found that 22 percent of Spanish households were living in poverty and that about 600,000 had no income at all. Meanwhile, Analysts do not expect the numbers to improve anytime soon.
In Girona, the unemployment rate is a relatively low 14 percent compared to 25 percent nationwide. The city of 100,000 with cobblestone streets lined with medieval buildings is home to a pristine historical former Jewish quarter which derives most of its income from tourism.
However, of the estimated 7,700 unemployed in Girona, Mr. Berloso said 40 percent have now run out of benefits and many are searching dumpsters and scavenging for discarded food wherever they can find it.