Monday, March 16, 2009

The City that Ended Hunger

After a career in food service, this story is close to my heart.

A city in Brazil recruited local farmers to help do something U.S. cities have yet to do: end hunger.

“To search for solutions to hunger means to act within the principle that the status of a citizen surpasses that of a mere consumer.”

More than 10 years ago, Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to all. One of its programs puts local farm produce into school meals. This and other projects cost the city less than 2 percent of its budget.

...Belo, a city of 2.5 million people, once had 11 percent of its population living in absolute poverty, and almost 20 percent of its children going hungry. Then in 1993, a newly elected administration declared food a right of citizenship. The officials said, in effect: If you are too poor to buy food in the market—you are no less a citizen. I am still accountable to you.

The new mayor, Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil. During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000.

The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce—which often reached 100 percent—to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food.

When my daughter Anna and I visited Belo Horizonte to write Hope’s Edge we approached one of these stands. A farmer in a cheerful green smock, emblazoned with “Direct from the Countryside,” grinned as she told us, “I am able to support three children from my five acres now. Since I got this contract with the city, I’ve even been able to buy a truck.”

More at the link.
Hat Tip to Treehugger

Hello, faith-based groups...
Anyone listening???

America now has a growing number of tent cities.

Morning Edition broadcast a feature just this morning.

Job losses, home foreclosures and a deepening recession are sending scores of newly homeless people into a makeshift camp along the banks of the American River in Sacramento, Calif.

The tent city, spread over an area the size of several football fields, has local officials scrambling over how to handle the area's homeless crisis.

More than a year ago, a handful of homeless people staked out the site on the northern edge of downtown Sacramento. Now there are more than 100 tents and anywhere between 300 to 400 people living without running water or sanitation. Their only protection from the elements is nylon tents and plastic tarps.

A single mid-day meal is available at a nearby faith-based charity called Loaves and Fishes. That's where social worker Jim Peth says he's seeing a lot of the newly homeless.

"That's been very recent," Peth says. "And you can tell because they're much better dressed. They're disoriented; they don't know where to go. So they're easy to spot."

More at the link, or listen to a four-minute audio stream.

No comments: