Distributive policy

‘It should be a state policy’: Maré’s solidarity kitchen guarantees food for favela residents

Original artwork by Raquel Batista

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The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people around the world, leading to huge changes in habits and routines, not to mention generating high unemployment rates. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in the first quarter of 2021 the number of unemployed in the country exceeded 15.2 milliona rate of 14.9%. Although Brazil is regaining jobs, many are informal and without signed contracts. Brazil has also returned to the United Nations Hunger Map, which features countries where more than 2.5% of the population faces chronic food shortages.

The Maré Mobilization Front, better known as the Maré Front, was created in 2020 during the pandemic, focusing on community communication and emergency initiatives to help families in Maré. Photo: Anísio Borba

Around 33.1 million Brazilians are currently experiencing severe food insecurity. Some areaswhere there is an absence of public investmentfeel this inequality more deeply. In order to mitigate these impacts at Maréa group of favelas located in the northern zone of Rio de Janeirothe Maré Mobilization Front is created. Better known as Maré Front, the group was created in early 2020 with a focus on Covid-19 communication in their communities. However, it has been forced to expand its work to provide emergency aid to families in Maré by distributing food, hygiene products, cooking gas cylinders and other items to the most vulnerable. .

In 2021, donations of basic foodstuffs and hygiene products have decreased significantly. Partly as a result of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Maré Front chose to work in a new way, launching the Front Kitchen to distribute cooked meals to Maré residents.

Vanusa Borba, coordinator of the Front Kitchen, prepares the hot meals. Photo: Anísio Borba

When the kitchen is in operation, an average of 150 to 200 hot meals are served to residents. Vanusa Borba, coordinator of Front Kitchen, explained where the supplies used to produce the meals distributed by the initiative come from: “The supplies for the production of meals are donations from other initiatives or when we solicit donations from individuals and businesses”.

Regarding the dishes that are served on distribution days, Borba specifies that the dishes served depend on the donations received: “Each dish is decided according to the donations we have received. If we have pasta and sausage, this will be the dish. If we have rice and beans we can make chicken stew with vegetables and farofa [cooked cassava flour]. It all really depends on what we receive in donations.

Asked about the importance of the work done by Front Kitchen, Borba said it really should be a state policy: “We are aware that our work does not eliminate hunger, that the work we do must be done by the state. However, if we don’t do it ourselves, if we don’t pursue donations, map the families that need it most, and help them in some way, people will be in need. It was like that during the most critical period of the pandemic.

Distribution of hot dishes in the kitchen area. Photo: Anísio Borba

Like Borba, Debora Silvaa resident of Maré served by the Front Kitchenemphasizes the importance of the work accomplished by the project. “Some people don’t even have rice or beans to eat. Some people don’t even have gas for cooking. The distribution of hot meals makes it easier for them to eat… Thanks to food parcels, I started to help in the kitchen. I like it a lot, it’s very rewarding to help people around me.

According to reports from volunteers and people served by Front Kitchen, the state does not conduct any type of food distribution program in Maré or other favelas in Rio. In Borba’s view, this is not happening because the current federal government believes it already distributes enough emergency aid. She said: “I believe the government thinks the emergency aid some families are receiving is more than enough. However, given the composition of the families residing in Maré, this amount is insufficient to cover one month’s consumption for one person, let alone one family.

We can see that there has been an increase in homelessness in Rio. Sometimes entire families share a tent because they have nowhere to live. We see more and more people looking for food in garbage cans, children begging for money on public transport and mothers who accept any job to support their families. All of these things reflect the deep inequality of our society. The state should pay close attention to food insecure people, among other social problems.

Juliana Pinho is a resident of Nova Holanda, one of the favelas that make up the Complexo da Maré, and has a degree in Social Sciences (UFRJ) and journalism (UCAM). A popular communicator and community mobilizer, Pinho co-founded the Maré Mobilization Frontis a member of the Palafitas Agencyand is responsible for the management and planning of for her project. Currently, she leads the NGO fight for peaceportfolio of.

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