Spain revolutionises food aid with supermarket cash cards

Spain improves its food aid programme

Supermarket shopping. Credit: 1000 Words/

In a major overhaul of its food aid system, Spain is transitioning from distributing food baskets to issuing supermarket cash cards.

This significant change, taking effect from May 2024, will impact families in need across Spain

On a critical date, the Council of Ministers, led by Pablo Bustinduy, the Minister of Social Rights, Consumption and Agenda 2030, approved a Royal Decree to initiate this transformation.

This new approach is specifically designed to combat child poverty, with eligibility limited to families with dependent children earning less than 40 per cent of the average income.

According to government estimates, around 70,000 families are set to benefit from this initiative.

Changing the face of aid

‘We dignify social protection so that families do not have to go to the hunger lines,’ stated Minister Pablo Bustinduy.

The new system allocates funds directly onto cards or vouchers, which families can use in supermarkets.

This method allows beneficiaries greater choice and dignity in selecting their groceries. The allocated amounts, ranging from €130 to €220 per month based on family size, mark an increase from previous allocations.

Management and distribution

Initially, the Red Cross will oversee the management of these cards, including their production and distribution through agreements with supermarkets.

The regional governments, however, will retain control over the beneficiary lists, which they must submit to the Ministry of Social Rights.

The funds on the cards will be proportional to the number of people in the family unit, varying from €130 for a two-person family to €220 for families of five or more.

Budget and beneficiaries

The new card system, part of the European Social Fund Plus programme, boasts a budget of €619.3 million for 2021-2027.

This includes €565 million from Europe and a 10 per cent co-financing from regional governments, equating to €110 million annually for 70,000 families. Despite the revamped distribution method, the total EU contribution remains unchanged.

Fesbal, the food bank federation, has expressed concerns that the new system might overlook certain groups, such as those with very low pensions or the homeless.

They argue that physical food distribution provides additional social and informational support, which might be lost with this change.

Implementation and future outlook

Spain now faces the task of finalising agreements with supermarkets, ensuring that the cards, valid for one year, can be used for food and basic hygiene products from a specific list.

Cashiers will guide users on eligible products. These cards can be recharged for up to three months at a time.

The goal is for this system to be fully operational by January 1, 2025, with some regions and cities, like Andalucia, Barcelona, and Madrid, already implementing similar schemes.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.