A city ends hunger

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Mon, 03/23/2009 - 15:19.

A city ends hunger

 
 
March 18, 12:19 AM · Add a Comment  Examiner.com
 

-Food as a right of citizenship

In the US now, one in 10 of us is now turning to food stamps. We can take lessons from Brazil’s fourth largest city, Belo Horizonte. A city of 2.5 million people once had 20 percent of its children going hungry, 11 percent of the population living in poverty. When the newly elected mayor Patrus Ananias took office in 1993, food was declared a right of citizenship.

The anti-hunger effort began with a 20-member city agency representing citizens, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. Dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food were created by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, saving them the retailer mark-up.

Entrepreneurs were offered the opportunity to bid on the right to use prime locations for “ABC” markets, from the Portuguese acronym for “food at low prices,” and they must abide in the acronym. These sellers are also obligated to “Drive produce-laden trucks to the poor neighborhoods outside of the city center, so everyone can get good produce,” says Adriana Aranha, a former manager within this city agency.

The People’s Restaurants serve 12,000 or more people from all walks of life, using the locally grown food for the equivalent of less than 50 cents a meal. No one has to prove they are poor to eat in a People’s restaurant, erasing stigma and supports “food with dignity.” Among other creative solutions, community and school gardens and nutrition classes increase “food security” and the government spends on healthy food from local growers.

"We're fighting the concept that the state is a terrible, incompetent administrator," Adriana explained. "We're showing that the state doesn't have to provide everything, it can facilitate. It can create channels for people to find solutions themselves."

The new social mentality embracing values of inclusion and mutual respect have lead to greater health for huge numbers. In a decade Belo Horizonte, cut its infant death rate by almost 40 percent. One six month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent.
And what does it cost? Around $10M annually, less than 2 percent of the city budget, about a penny per day per Belo resident.

"I knew we had so much hunger in the world. But what is so upsetting, what I didn't know when I started this, is it's so easy. It's so easy to end it." –Adriana Aranha

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