The effects of Spain’s rampant inflation and upwards price pressures on food are having an impact not only on Spaniards bank accounts, but their health too.
In Spain, supermarket prices have skyrocketed in recent months. The price of a melon, for example, recently topped €13, an increase so extreme that it highlights the nutritional quality of poorer Spaniards’ lives during times of economic hardship, and how they can be priced out of healthy, nutritious goods.
According to Spain’s national statistics body, the INE, in June of this year the prices of 46 household products were more expensive and above the overall Consumer Price Index (the rate used to calculate inflation, known as CPI) of 10.2 percent.
These included eggs (23.9 percent more expensive); butter (23.1 percent); whole milk (21.1 percent); fresh fruit (19.3 percent); baby food (16.7 percent), poultry meat (14.1 percent), bread (13.9 percent); beef (13.1 percent) and or cheese (10.5 percent).
But in times of economic crisis, rising shopping basket prices can also effect the quality of nutrition people are able to access, and this is especially true in lower income families.
Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggest that food prices have reached their highest level since 1990.
The Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) warned in July of a 15.2 percent price increase in the price of food shopping in a year. OCU figures also point to a 52.6 percent increase in olive oil prices and a rise of 12.4 percent for fruit and vegetables.
Spaniards across the country are being priced out of balanced, healthy diets and surviving on a deficit of fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil – staples of the much famed Mediterranean diet – and types of the food products that have increased in price.
The rising price of staple foods can end up causing consumers to look to “low quality, cheap and appetite-relied” products, Professor of Nutrition at the Complutense University of Madrid, Jesús Román, told the Spanish press last week.
Rising prices, he says, forces poorer income families to “opt for cheaper foods that are usually of lower quality, restricting those that are healthier.”
Unable to afford to eat healthily, many Spaniards are now forced to opt for cheaper and unhealthier alternatives. The consequences are clear, particularly on children who can’t access a nutritional diet during their developmental years.
In a Report on Childhood Obesity in Spain put together by supermarket chain Eroski, they concluded that childhood obesity is “a form of excessive malnutrition that, in many cases, also continues in adulthood.”
Research by the International University of Valencia (VIU) indicates that in the decade between 2011 and 2021 the percentage of overweight children in Spain increased to almost 40 percent. Among adolescents, that figure is 30 percent.
The Spanish government recently introduced the National Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Childhood Obesity with the aim of reducing obesity rates by 25 percent over the next decade.
Spain is one of the EU’s member states with the highest correlation between the risk of child poverty and obesity, and with rising food prices making a healthier, balanced diet more expensive and difficult to access, the combination of post-pandemic economic recovery and record inflationary pressures on food prices could push more into poverty.
Data published last May by the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (Fesbal) shows that in 2022, 20 percent more Spaniards will visit and rely on food banks than in 2021.