Los Comedores Sociales de España: Cómo Funciona los Comedores Sociales en España, y cómo han Cambiado por la Crisis

Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2012

Department 1

Center for Global Education


The aim of this paper is to present the issue of hunger in Spain and outline the personal struggles of the people who come to soup kitchens to feed themselves. Due to the crisis, the necessity for free meals for the public has risen significantly. As unemployment and the eviction rate continue to rise, more and more people find themselves in need of extra support from organizations like the “Comedor” of San Raphael. The soup kitchen feeds between 150-250 people each 2-hr shift, ever Monday and Wednesday. In general, a minimum of 15 volunteers is required to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The typical volunteer is old, between the age of 50-60, but there are a few student volunteers from the University of Granada as well. The woman in charge is named Pilar, and in general she is a good leader and kind person. She is firm yet friendly, directing each volunteer to her/his post at the beginning of the shift, and answering questions when she can. The volunteers, doctors, chefs, and frequenters from the street seem to respect and like her, and so do I.

During a typical shift, volunteers have the option to serve food, hand out bread and cups, wash dishes, or attend to the tables (filling water jugs, etc.). Although I always prefer to work in a site that allows more contact with the people from the street, Pilar often assigned me to a spot behind the food counter. There are regulations regarding contact with the diners, and although I am older than the required age to work with the frequenters (minimum age is 18), Pilar and the other volunteers believe that American girls tend to attract more attention, and this may complicate the work process.

Since I began working at the comedor in October, I have observed the hundreds of people who pass through San Raphael’s doors every Monday and Wednesday for a hot meal. Some are sick and old, some are mentally unstable, and others are immigrants who have fallen on hard times like many others during Spain’s economic crisis. Still others seem like the average business employee – middle-aged, relatively clean cut, and average looking. Although I was initially surprised to see these types of people at a soup kitchen, people who may still have jobs and homes, I’ve come to realize that their frequency merely indicates the severity of the crisis, and the effect it is having even on the middle class. The people who eat in the comedor are not all old, sick, or addicted to drugs. The crisis has touched people of all classes, and the need for support from organizations like El Comedor de San Juan de Dios is increasingly urgent. This realization is what sparked my interest in studying the functioning and availability of soup kitchens in Spain, as well as the personal stories of those who have fallen hard enough to rely on such organizations.


This paper was written during the author's study abroad experience as part of the SIT Graduate Institute - Study Abroad Program. It is part of the Community Service Projects Collection.

Required Publisher's Statement

Original version is available from SIT Graduate Institute - Study Abroad Program at: http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/spc/7/