Requests for food support in the Algarve are increasing as the end of summer approaches, but officials of solidarity institutions in the region believe the height of the crisis will be felt in the coming months.
With a high employability rate during the summer, associated with tourism, the population of the Algarve should only begin to feel the true effects of the economic crisis in the low season. The crisis, which began during the covid-19 pandemic, is now exacerbated by the energy crisis and increased cost of living due to inflation.
Speaking to Lusa news agency, the president of the Movement for Support of AIDS Problems (MAPS), Fábio Simão, said “We are slowly feeling some people asking for support again, but we still don't have the big clash that the summer is masking”, said the official, predicting that “the worst is yet to come” with inflation increasing and winter approaching.
Despite estimating that there will be an increase in requests for help in the coming months, due to the likely worsening of living conditions, Fábio Simão cannot yet anticipate whether the situation will be more difficult than in previous winters.
The institution supports fifty people with food baskets donated by the Food Bank and other entities, around 160 through a government program to support needy families and approximately 70 with prepared meals, as part of an exceptional support created during the pandemic.
The coordinator of Refood in Faro, an institution that fights food waste and forwards these goods to disadvantaged families, is also convinced that “the situation will get complicated” as summer ends and winter approaches.
“I think that in mid-September we will again have many requests for help. More than in previous years”, predicted Paula Matias, pointing out as one of the main reasons for this increase the decrease in the standard of living caused by inflation and the end of the aid moratoriums created during the covid-19 pandemic.
According to the official, around 70% of families that seek the institution do so, mainly due to the high housing rents they pay in the Algarve and which leave little or nothing left at the end of the month for other expenses.
“Families have to pay for a series of services, especially rent, and what is left for the end is food”, he added, "there are more and more middle class families asking for help". The institution currently already helps more than 500 people” which corresponds to about 200 families.
According to Paula Matias, in the last weeks of August the demand for food support increased, mainly by families that had suspended these requests, having found temporary work during the summer, which has now ended.
However, an official speaking for Cáritas Diocesana do Algarve told Lusa news agency that there is still no increase in demand for support in the region, as is already happening in other regions of the country, due to the good year that tourism is having and the fact that many people are still working.
“The portrait of social care here in the Algarve may differ a little from what is happening in the rest of the country, in the sense that we have not yet noticed a greater influx of people needing help here, at Cáritas Diocesana do Algarve”, said Ana Sofia Pereira, from the institution's Social Action department.
The official explained this difference with seasonality and with the “fact that the Algarve, in terms of hotels, has had a huge demand” and that “causes the vast majority of people to be busy”.
“As they are earning income, they are not yet feeling the crisis, which is expected and which we know will happen, because this demand will be the same as in the rest of the country, but at different timings. Possibly, here we will start to feel it in the second half of September or at the beginning of October, but for now we don't have that demand”, she explained.
Ana Sofia Pereira pointed out that the current situation is no different from“the reality of every year in the Algarve”, where, “even in years of pandemic this was noticed” and, “from June to mid-September or early October, things slow down a little” in terms of social support “because most people get work”.
Regarding a possible reinforcement of the response capacity, anticipating an increase in demand, Ana Pereira replied that Cáritas Diocesana do Algarve - which supports 534 people, in a total of 197 families -, is “always present in situations like this, that it has to reinforce the capacity to answer".