What is hunger?
The question seems ridiculous and the answer obvious, but as nearly 30% of the Brazilian population is hungry or dealing with food insecurity to some degree, it is necessary to serve up the obvious on a plate, pun intended. According to a study by the Brazilian Network for Research on Food Sovereignty and Security (PENSSAN), about 125 million Brazilians are trying to cope with food insecurity. This means feeling hungry and not eating due to a lack of money to buy food, only having one meal a day, or going a whole day without eating. Have you ever thought about that?
Hunger in the World
Hunger in the world is a chronic and endemic problem in Africa and some regions of Asia, the Middle East and South America affecting a mid-point of 735 million people in 2022. Although Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that every human being has the right to food, the United Nations has established an international pact among member countries to end hunger by 2030. Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on the 2030 Agenda, SDG 2 is related to the theme. Ending hunger, achieving food security and an improvement in nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture is the goal agreed upon by the UN member nations.
Hunger in Brazil
The goal in Brazil is to eradicate hunger and guarantee access to culturally appropriate, safe, healthy, and sufficient food by 2030. The objective is focused on everyone, but particularly those in vulnerable situations, including the elderly and children. Law No. 11,346 of 2006 established the National Food and Nutritional Security System. Article 3 of this Law establishes that food and nutritional security consists of realizing everyone’s right to regular and permanent access to food. It also determines that the food should be of quality, in sufficient quantity, without compromising access to other essential needs. Additionally, it should be based on health-promoting eating practices. Furthermore, these practices should respect all forms of diversity, as well as be environmentally, culturally, economically, and socially sustainable.
What is Food Insecurity?
Food insecurity refers to the lack of regular and consistent access to enough affordable and nutritious food. According to the Brazilian Food Insecurity Scale (EBIA), food security means that a family or household has regular and permanent access to high-quality food in sufficient quantity without compromising access to other essential needs. The scale classifies mild food insecurity as when there is concern or uncertainty about future food access or when the quality of food is inadequate due to strategies aimed at not compromising the quantity of food. Severe food insecurity occurs when there is a quantitative reduction in food and/or disruption in eating patterns due to lack of food.
A multidimensional and complex problem
Food insecurity is closely linked to social, demographic, economic, political, and cultural factors. For instance, formal employment is associated with food security because it provides more financial stability. In other words, the precariousness of labor rights, unemployment, informality, and the gig economy also affect food security. In addition, levels of income and education as well as place of residence also influence food insecurity. The issue can even be discussed from a gender perspective, as the number of single mothers, who are solely responsible for feeding their children is increasing in Brazil.
The food desert and environmental racism
The concept of a food desert refers to geographical regions with little or no availability of fresh and healthy foods. Residents in these areas only have access to processed foods. Processed foods come from the food industry and generally contain preservatives and other products that can be detrimental to health. Because they are produced on a large scale, their prices are more accessible to the low-income population. However, consuming processed foods affects various aspects of health. It is a concept that should also be discussed in the context of environmental racism, as there is a spatial segregation of healthy food supply in certain areas where the socioeconomic level is lower.
A problem that affects everyone’s future
The impact of food insecurity has long-term consequences in early childhood (the period between 0 and 6 years of age). It is at this stage that the brain develops more complexly and quickly. The lack of a healthy diet or even a complete lack of nutrition affects all physical and cognitive development. Among the effects of food insecurity are apathy, attention, delay in language acquisition, memory problems, among others. In other words, the impact on educational development is severe and can compromise a child’s entire future. Since educational level also affects income, a perverse cycle of poverty is created.
Food justice and food sovereignty
The topic of food justice is no less complex, as in order to ensure rights and balance social inequalities, it would be necessary to regulate the food industry. Additionally, it involves ensuring the implementation of public policies and citizen participation in promoting local, healthy agriculture. Although Brazil is among the world’s largest food producers, it does not have food sovereignty. This is because the production and exportation of soy, beans, corn, fruits, and beef is concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners. These products are exported, meaning they do not stay in the country and do not contribute to reducing local food insecurity. Additionally, many are sold to the food industry for processing. Meanwhile, the healthier foods produced by family or community agriculture need tax incentives and support from public policies.
Initiatives to end hunger in Brazil
Founded in 1993 by sociologist Betinho, for 30 years these initiatives have been used to combat hunger and poverty through the mobilization of resources and targeted distribution in projects such as Brazil Without Hunger and Christmas Without Hunger. In 2022, the NGO held the Meeting Against Hunger, bringing together researchers, experts, civil society organizations, and social movements for three days to discuss the causes, consequences, and solutions to hunger. As a result of the meeting, a letter was drafted with ten priority measures to overcome hunger.
According to the Gastromotiva website, the NGO was founded in 2006 by chef and social entrepreneur David Hertz. Gastromotiva is an organization that offers professional training so that its students can become entrepreneurs, assistants and chefs, replicators of its methodology. In addition to awakening in many of them the desire to become community mobilizers, who generate local opportunities and actions to combat hunger in their territories. There are multiple impacts, using gastronomy as a tool for social transformation and combating waste. With 15 years of experience and experience of Social Gastronomy in Brazil and around the world, the NGO contributes to the transformation of lives in the places where it operates and increasingly expands its vision and global action of cooperation with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The Dara Institute
Working with families in vulnerable situations means recognizing that there are different levels of food insecurity that need to be addressed when talking about and dealing with hunger. By mapping food insecurity and introducing a voucher, we created a personalized action plan for each family. Nutritional education and financial education go hand in hand at Dara: divide to multiply, doing everything possible within each reality. Among the families served between 2021 and 2023, 89% of children aged 0 to 6 have issues linked to food insecurity. Guiding families to optimize the purchase of foods with greater nutritional value and raising awareness about the complete and healthy use of food groups is one of the main challenges faced by the team at the Dara Institute.