Palma/Madrid.—Spain's food bank network, which has helped feed more than a million people in a deep economic crisis, on Wednesday won the prestigious Prince of Asturias Concord prize.

The organisation triumphed over 33 other contenders to take the 50'000-euro prize, one of eight awarded in different fields by Spain's Asturias Foundation each year.

The jury praised the Spanish Federation of Food Banks as “an exponent of an international effort of solidarity to alleviate some of the most pressing needs of the population, currently made worse by the economic crisis.” “The food donors and volunteers and organisations for which they act as a channel constitute crucial, generous examples of this selfless effort for others,” it added.

The federation, founded in 1996, distributed 106 tonnes of food last year, providing help to more than 1.2 million people. “Our reaction is one of great joy because we have worked very hard, we have been making a huge effort -- not to win the prize, but to help those in need,” the organisation's spokesman, Agustin Alberti, said.

Spain is struggling through its second recession in four years, hit hard by the bursting of the property bubble that has left one in four people out of work and 1.7 million households where everyone is unemployed.

The proportion of people living below the poverty line in Spain stood at 21.8 percent last year, according to provisional figures from the National Statistics Institute, up from 19.5 percent in 2009.

The Concordia prize is awarded to an institution or person “whose work has significantly contributed to fostering peace, the defence of human rights, freedom, solidarity, the safeguarding of heritage or, in general, the progress of humanity.” Former winners of the Concordia prize include scientist Stephen Hawking, writer J.K. Rowling, and charity groups Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children.

The Spanish awards, named after Crown Prince Felipe, are presented in the city of Oviedo, capital of the northern Asturias region, in October in a glittering ceremony broadcast live on Spanish television.

In addition to the cash, winners receive a sculpture designed by the late Catalan artist Joan Miró who lived and died in Majorca.