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About the Author

Luan Galani
Science & Development Journalist (Curitiba, Brazil)

A twenty-something eternal apprentice who has a passionate interest in what happens around him. Fascinated by the under-reported, he refuses to be a detached observer and never tires of exploring the untold. His long-life dream is reporting from conflict zones to dig up the underbelly side of war.


Food for the soul

Published 01st April 2010 - 3 comments - 2525 views -

The central courtyard is crammed full of lorries and kombis. During the time that crates of fruits are unloaded, kilos of carrots are ranged in a line on the corner. That is not for a traditional fair or kermess. These are the last-minute arrangements for the food distribution promoted by ‘Paraná Social Action’ (PSA) – a non-profit organisation based in the south of Brazil – to institutions in need.

Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, family farmers from Curitiba and other towns on the outskirts bring their products to PSA, where representatives from several registered institutions are given fruits, vegetables and a lot more in the right amount, as calculated by nutritionists.

PSA only manages to do it because of the existence of a special governmental programme called ‘Fome Zero’ (Zero Hunger). This programme was created in 2002 in Brazil for the purpose of erradicating hunger in the country. Through that, PSA purchases food from the farmers and then hand it to institutions. Last year, it got to buy more than 981 tons! It helps not only institutions but also family farmers that don’t get to sell their products and started to get poor. But, contrary to all expectations, almost no one knows it exists. Like blood in our bodies, PSA activity is subterranean, intense and crucial.


One day on the field

Sat on a corner, just watching the movements, is Raul Ferreira Cardozo. He is nearly sixty and is coordinator of the Seven Angels Institution, which existence depends on the weekly aid to keep up his family. He and his wife look after 29 children that once were abandoned at the streets. “We give up on all the rest in our lives to take care of them. We do it without any regret”, says Raul. It is clear that he and his wife definitely throw themselves wholeheartedly into this.

From his own truck, Ananias Breine unloads crates and more crates, sacks and more sacks of food. For the last four years, this German descendant farmer tells me he has had to leave his house one day before to be here in the morning. “I feel honoured to take part in all this”, he claims, showing me everything being carried.

A few meters from there, Claudete dos Santos is having a field day loading her kombi. Primary school teacher, she recalls she is lucky for getting fuel to come today. “Coming here isn’t possible sometimes”, Claudete admits. “And when I don’t get it, our children have little to eat”, she says almost bursting into tears.

Like Claudete’s pupils and Raul’s children, other 57 thousand people are assisted by the programme. But, although noble and extensive, this solidarity action passes unnoticed by most people.

In Brazil, one child dies of hunger every five minutes, while 70 thousand tons of food are thrown away daily, according to Akatu Institute.

Regarding this cruel statistics, the president of the Food Security Council of Paraná state, Silvia Rigon, points out that this reality is partly triggered by food merchandization. “Alimentation is no more seen as a basic need. Instead, we buy the idea that who has money buys food, and who doesn’t have remains hungry”.

It gets even more explicit in the film ’Garapa’. After his success with ‘Bus 174’ and ‘Elite Squad’, José Padilha returned to the documentary genre with this story of the widespread effects of malnutrition in Brazil. ‘Garapa’ is a devastating observation of hunger in Brazil, by showing us the daily struggles of three families. The film's name derives from Brazil's most basic staple, a sugar-cane solution called 'garapa'.

Images of the day I have been there:




Category: Hunger | Tags:


  • Jodi Bush on 01st April 2010:

    Very interesting. And closely aligned to what my latest blog on obesity. It’s great that you’ve brought attention not only to the problems of waste and hunger, but also a great program that is working to help some of those who are struggling. What makes me so angry is that there is simply so much waste, when there are millions dying because of malnutrition or lack of food. We shouldn’t need to have individual programs working around the clock to make meagre provisions for people when there is already enough food - it’s simply being thrown away or being gorged by others.

  • Robert Stefanicki on 01st April 2010:

    Luan, I have learned about Zero Hunger some time before, but the evaluation (opinion) was mixed. What is yours, I mean costs/effects. Thanks.

  • Luan Galani on 05th April 2010:

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Well, that’s a quite complex programme to evaluate. But let’s try.

    In one hand, when financing these sorts of initiatives, in my opinion, Zero Hunger hits the nail on the head. It is a complete success. But only few people know about these Zero Hunger’s programmes in Brazil. So, in general evaluations, they are not taken into account. The best side of it is not considered by press and others.

    On the other hand, part of the annual budget is used for another broad programme, know as ‘Bolsa Família’ (Family Aid), with which I don’t agree. ‘Bolsa Família’ gives money, varying from R$22 to R$200, to people in need. But, in my vision, it is like giving fish, and not teaching to fish. I don’t like this kind of approach. Before Lula government, the former Brazilian President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who is the creator of this programme, had the same type of initiative, but with a totally different approach. The name was not ‘Bolsa Família’, it was ‘Bolsa Escola’ (School Aid). Only poor families with children attending school and having good performance were given it. It was an education stimulus. Many children had started attending schools. However, now, many are not. And many people do not work hard as they used to, as they have some guaranteed money.

    Then, all things considered, I personally believe Zero Hunger is a good initiative for sure. But not forever. Unfortunately, the Brazilian government seems not to bare it in mind. R$ 264 millions are invested annually in it and the governmental expenses are soaring. So, it is just a short term part solution.

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