Interview with Ana Sancho, manager of the Barcelona Food Bank

“Solidarity on the Part of Mercabarna Companies is Fundamental”

Q- What challenges you are facing in this new phase?
A- Given the current situation, we have to carry on the job of making known just what the Bank does, a task that got underway last year, and to find ways to collect more food products. Not so much because solidarity has significantly fallen off, but because the demand simply keeps on growing.

Q- So there aren’t very many green shoots in sight...
A- There certainly aren’t! In June we approved 25 new non-profit organisations so that they could receive food products from the Bank, bringing the current total to 300. Altogether, some 104,000 people per month benefit from the food products we collect, but in January 2009, there were 56,000. That means the number of beneficiaries has doubled. That’s a lot of people!

Q- Have the “faces” of these recipients changed a great deal with the downturn?
A- Yes, they have. Since 2008, the number of Spanish families has tripled. One or two of their members are now unemployed and yet have to cope with heavy financial burdens such as mortgages, bank loans and the like.

Q- What is your outlook in view of this situation?
A- We would be only too pleased to repeat the same number of kilos of food per person that we managed to distribute in 2009. And to do this, we have started to work on a new line: by establishing collaboration agreements with companies, so that they will not only donate surplus stock, but also make small but ongoing monthly contributions.

Q- A year ago a campaign was carried out among Mercabarna companies to increase donations. The results were positive. Have these effects lasted?
A- Thanks to the campaign donations increased. This year we continued with increased donations over the same period in 2009, but since May we’ve noticed a certain slump in terms of contributions.

Q- And why is this?
A- The downturn is also affecting the companies. They don’t take as many risks; they adjust their production now and have lower surplus as a result. What’s more, in terms of fresh produce, there is also the influence of the climate factor, of the seasonal nature... However, above all, we at the Bank have to make a concerted effort to better inform wholesalers and to make donating easier.

Q- How?
A- We have ideas such as putting up posters in the Markets to remind companies that they can donate to the Bank. Or placing “cages” where they can drop off products and we can come by and pick them up. What we’re going to do this summer is open the Mercabarna storage area on Mondays and Fridays in August so that everyone who wants to donate foodstuffs can do so.

Q- Would you call your stall-by-stall collection service a success?
A- Not right now. We lack volunteers to make it successful. This is why we’d like to be able to rely on people who work or have worked in Mercabarna to carry out this task; people who know the Mercabarna layout well, the companies and so on.

Q- Do you have any other projects in mind?
A- We want to launch a plan of action aimed at the companies in Mercabarna’s Complementary Activities Area that specialise in frozen foods. This initiative is related to a project we are getting off the ground so as to implement a cold storage network, improve our facilities, ease refrigerated transport and equip non-profit organisations with refrigerators.

Q- Why are Mercabarna’s contributions so important?
A- With the foodstuffs donated in 2009, we came closer than ever to reaching the values of the DER (daily energy recommendation), which establishes the daily level of nutrients that a person should consume. The fact is we don’t want merely to supply food, but also to provide our recipients with a balanced diet. And to achieve this, Mercabarna donations have been crucial, since they supply us with healthy, high-quality fresh produce.