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Spain’s hunger crisis gets welcome help from small business owner in U.S.

LatinaLista — The global economic slowdown has been battering Spain. A 2012 report by the international charity Caritas showed that more than 11 million people were at risk for living in poverty and that more than 30,000 people were homeless.

FESBAL headquarters serve as the clearinghouse for organizations to collect donated food to distribute in their communities.

The situation has only continued to get worse. Unemployment stands at 26 percent.

Since 2008, more than 350,000 Spaniards have lost their homes, pushing some to commit suicide at the prospect of being humiliated and homeless. The government was forced to convene a special session to take a look at revising current mortgage laws after 1.4 million people signed a petition.

Then there’s the issue of food.

The Red Cross reports that 300,000 people in the birthplace of paella are vulnerable to hunger. The number could even be higher according to some sources since there is a large immigrant and undocumented underclass who don’t have the same access to resources as Spanish citizens.

It’s an understatement to say that Spanish food banks are working overtime.

The Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL), a consortium of 54 food banks across Spain, saw the organization grow by 20 percent over the previous year. It signed agreements with more than 300 companies. A good thing since the organization constantly battles government talk of cuts in contributions, even though demand for their services keep rising. In 2012, FESBAL serviced 1,300,000.

FESBAL’s work has attracted attention from businesses both inside and outside the country, including a Virginia-based distributor of Spanish products. La Tienda, a small family-owned business that imports gourmet and artisanal food from small Spanish producers, has a history of helping Virginia-area food banks and wanted to do their part to help the mother country of their business success.

The owners and workers of La Tienda launched Campaign for Spain in November 2012 to support FESBAL. Their efforts attracted the support of Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, among others. However, simply soliciting money was not the objective. La Tienda not only vowed to raise money but to also match dollar for dollar each donation. The result is that La Tienda’s CEO and co-owner, Tim Harris, presented a $50,000 check to FESBAL in Spain this month.

“Even more than the funds raised, we’ve been reminded of the unbelievable capacity of Americans to help those in need, even while they are also facing hardships at home,” noted Tim Harris. “People are helping Spain and also helping those in their own community or giving relief for the victims of Sandy. They tell us they feel blessed to be able to help people at home and around the world.”

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