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Food and nutrition security discursive frames in the context of the Spanish economic crisis


The recent economic crisis in Spain has provoked a number of food and nutrition security (FNS) impacts that have fuelled a fragmented landscape of food-related debates, although these have not taken the form of a coherent and all-embracing public discussion on national food security. This paper is an inductive analysis of such debates, mostly based on media coverage, in an attempt to disentangle the different discourse frames on FNS in Spain, and the role played by the economic crisis in the shaping and underpinning of such frames. For this purpose a frame matrix was constructed, paying particular attention to the stakeholders’ governance claims in order to confront frame-specific problems. Results show how stakeholders have used elements of the crisis to underpin or reinterpret their core arguments. In addition, governance claims have concentrated on the malfunctioning of the food chain, mostly due to unequal bargaining power, and the way this could be putting at risk crucial components of the food system and future FNS. Also, the short-termism of most stakeholders’ approaches obscures the long run threats to the Spanish food system.

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  1. 1.

    This assessment of the impact of climate change in Spain devotes a chapter to agriculture. However, there is no reference in this report to the potential impact on food security.

  2. 2.

    In rough terms, one third of the milk and half the cheese consumed in Spain are imported (Sineiro 2012); the import of grain supplies one third of the consumption.

  3. 3.

    There is an ongoing debate about the use of the term ‘food security’ (CFS 2012). In this paper, we adopt the term FNS as it considers not only the concept of food security as internationally accepted, but also nutritional aspects, including health services, healthy environment and caring practices (Pangaribowo et al. 2013), which fall within the scope of our analysis.

  4. 4.

    Obtained from Eurostat and the National Statistical Institute.

  5. 5.

    Abbreviation of ‘At Risk of Poverty or Social Exclusion’, which refers to the percentage of people either at risk of poverty, or severely materially deprived or living in a household with a very low work intensity. It is the main indicator used to monitor the EU 2020 Strategy poverty target.

  6. 6.

    During the Civil War (1936–1939) and the long post-war period, Spain suffered a serious deterioration of the food situation (see Cussó and Garrabou 2009).

  7. 7.

    A massive poisoning by consumption of adulterated rapeseed oil took place in Spain in the spring of 1981.

  8. 8.

    Two articles from British newspapers were also taken into consideration.

  9. 9.

    Joint position of a number of Spanish-based environmentalist NGOs (SEO/Birdlife, WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth) about the CAP reform.

  10. 10.

    Joint position of SEO/Birdlife and WWF.

  11. 11.

    Spain is the eighth largest exporter of food in the world. In 2014 agri-food exports reached a record value of € 40.8 billion,17 % of the national total exports.

  12. 12.

    In fact, the food and beverage industry in Spain has shown better performance in terms of employment than the economy overall during the crisis: job losses between 2007 and 2013 reached 9.8 %, well below the economy average (17.7 %) (Muñoz and Sosvilla 2014).

  13. 13.

    A recent report broadcasted in the British Channel 4 News about the hard working and living conditions of migrants in El Ejido (a zone of intensive greenhouse agriculture) provoked a rapid and massive response by Spanish farmers’ unions and related associations questioning the veracity of the information.

  14. 14.

    The debate has been a magnificent arena to observe the diverse positions about the CAP and its relationships with food security (Candel et al. 2014).

  15. 15.

    ASAJA is a more agribusiness-focused organisation. COAG and UPA are more rural and small and medium-sized holdings focused.

  16. 16.

    In this piece of news, a teacher told how a child said that his mother gave him a ‘magical sandwich’, bread with bread without anything else (the family could not afford the stuffing), so that he could imagine what was in between.

  17. 17.

    A survey performed in 2012 revealed that Spanish households throw out 1.5 million tonnes of food (1.3 kg/week/household) that is fit for consumption (Hispacoop 2012).

  18. 18.

    Although these organisations also receive support from the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund.

  19. 19.

    The Spanish branch of the ATTAC organisation founded in 1998 in France.

  20. 20.

    ANTAMA is a foundation aimed to promote biotech developments in agriculture.


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This research is part of the project “Assessment of the impact of global drivers of change on Europe’s food security” (TRANSMANGO), granted by the EU under 7th Framework Programme, theme KBBE.2013.2.5-01, Grant agreement no: 613532. Authors gratefully appreciate the comments and suggestions made by the three anonymous reviewers and the editors of the Journal.

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Correspondence to Dionisio Ortiz-Miranda.

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Ortiz-Miranda, D., Moreno Pérez, O. & Arnalte Alegre, E. Food and nutrition security discursive frames in the context of the Spanish economic crisis. Food Sec. 8, 665–677 (2016).

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  • Frame matrix
  • Media analysis
  • Food and nutrition security
  • Spain
  • Economic crisis