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article imageDocumentary: Belo Horizonte, Brazil — The city that beat hunger

By Anne Sewell     Dec 17, 2012 in Food
Belo Horizonte - This short documentary (12 minutes) shows how Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.5 million people in Minas Gerais, Brazil, came up with a policy to ensure that no citizen went hungry.
In 1993, the new mayor of the city, Patrus Ananias, began by creating a city agency, including a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business and church representatives, to design and implement a new food system in the city. In the video Ananias explains that he came from a poor family and understands what it is like to be hungry. He wanted to solve the hunger situation in the city.
Back then, the city had 2.5 million residents, which included 275,000 people living in abject poverty, and around 20% of children were going to bed hungry each night.
The city went about involving regular citizens in allocating municipal resources, giving public space for local family farmers to sell their wares, and saving residents money by taking out the middleman and reducing costs. The farmers got more for their produce, and the public could more readily afford the fresh, healthy food.
On top of this the city ensured that children received good healthy food at school each day, free of charge.
Another great idea was the three large, airy “People’s Restaurants” (Restaurante Popular), plus a few smaller venues, that daily serve 12,000 or more people using mostly locally grown food for the equivalent of less than 50 cents a meal.
Through all these endeavors, Belo Horizonte has cut its infant death rate by more than half and the initiatives benefit almost 40% of the city's population.
One six-month period in 1999 saw infant malnutrition in a sample group reduced by 50 percent.
Other results show that between 1993 and 2002 Belo Horizonte was the only locality in which consumption of fruits and vegetables went up.
The cost to the local government was around $10 million annually, or less than 2 percent of the city budget. That’s about a penny a day per Belo Horizonte resident.
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