Solidarity in the Time of Disease: Italy's 'Spesa Sospesa'

Wed, 04/08/2020 - 04:44
Worker with basket of food for spesa sospesa initiative in Italy

People in need during this state of emergency over coronavirus are finding they’re not always left alone. Solidarity initiatives that are spreading through Italy include the ‘Campagna Amica - Spesa sospesa a domicilio’, promoted by Coldiretti, Italy’s main farmers’ association. Consumers who buy groceries online through Campagna Amica, which only sells products made in Italy, can opt to donate a food package to families who are having difficulty paying for their own food shopping. 

It follows the tradition of the so-called ‘caffè sospeso’, which originated in Naples, a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity. That’s why it’s been called ‘spesa sospesa’ (Italian for suspended food shopping). Thus families in need can get fruit, vegetables, flour, cheeses, salami and other quality local products.

This initiative began on March 31 in Milan where food packages were delivered in the working class neighborhood of Porta Romana, and quickly spread to other parts of Italy.  

In Naples, a similar initiative encourages people to donate a few euros of their online grocery shopping to the needy. The sum collected will be used to donate food to those who cannot afford it.

In Rome, several neighborhoods are promoting the ‘Spesa sospesa’ initiative too, directly in the supermarkets: when people go grocery shopping, they can buy some additional products which they leave with the supermarket and will then be distributed to those who need them through parishes and local associations.

The motto of this initiative is “Chi può metta, chi non può prenda” (Those who can should give, those who can’t should take). The solidarity campaign is spreading across Italy with baskets and areas for the collection of food being set up in several areas of many cities.

According to the latest survey by Istat, there are about 50,000 people in Italy who live in a condition of extreme poverty; just in Rome, there are approximately 16,000 homeless. These numbers could increase now that hundreds of workers are finding themselves unemployed or with their wages reduced significantly.