HOPKINTON, New Hampshire — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the globe, malnutrition and hunger rates have surged to 9.9% from the 2014-2019 rate of 8.4%, leaving “between 720 and 811 million people” hungry in 2020. Hunger has become a reality everywhere, including in countries that were progressing toward widespread food security, such as Brazil. While the government’s success in combating food insecurity in Brazil resulted in the nation’s removal from the World Food Programme’s Hunger Map in 2014, today, close to one out of every 10 Brazilians endure “serious hunger.” Due to the pandemic, the unemployment rate rose to 14.7% in the first quarter of 2021, adding another 8 million people to the starving population and causing people’s food purchasing power to decrease drastically.
Food Insecurity in Brazil
Since the turn of the 21st century, Brazil has been a global leader in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition. The Brazilian government established Brazil’s Zero Hunger initiative in 2003 to ensure that all Brazilians have access to nutritious food. The Zero Hunger program follows “a multi-sectoral approach at the public policy level, involving policies and programs around social protection and safety nets, education, food production, health services, drinking water and sanitation.” The 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World report notes that “the number of undernourished Brazilians had fallen by more than 80% in 10 years,” according to The New Humanitarian.
However, since the start of the pandemic, hunger in Brazil has become a problematic issue once again. The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in Brazil, with about 116 million Brazilians facing food insecurity in 2021. In a 2021 survey, the Unified Center of Favelas (CUFA) along with research firm Locomotiva, finds that most households across 76 different favelas or slums do not have access to three meals a day. Food insecurity in Brazil disproportionately affects families with a non-white female head of household that live in Brazil’s rural northern region. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brazilian government distributed money to millions of struggling Brazilians. However, the relief citizens felt was short-lived as the government aid came to a close a few months later.
In 2006, chef and entrepreneur David Hertz founded Gastromotiva, a Brazilian organization fighting hunger, combating community violence, creating local jobs and teaching comprehensive nutrition education. Gastromotiva provides free culinary, hospitality and social entrepreneurship training for impoverished populations and youth. Beginning in San Paulo, Brazil, in a home kitchen, Gastromotiva has spread throughout Brazil and into El Salvador and Mexico. The organization also provides courses through four different universities.
As everyone’s dreams differ, Gastromotiva offers three different educational tracks one can take — an entrepreneurship course, a professional cook course and a professional cook course with a “social gastromy” specialization. The main focus of these programs is to encourage sustainable cooking to decrease food waste and feed more impoverished populations. In fact, in the social gastronomy-focused professional cook course, students cook more than 90 meals for homeless Brazilians daily.
When the pandemic hit, hunger in Brazil increased rapidly. To aid these starving populations, Gastromotiva decided to launch its Solidarity Kitchens program in March 2020. Through this program, entrepreneurs can prepare meals from their kitchens for people in need in their local communities. With 51 solidarity kitchens and growing in Brazil and Mexico, this network of Gastromotiva trained chefs could potentially alleviate hunger in Latin America forever. The grassroots approach of Solidarity Kitchens enables the preparation of roughly 70,000 meals a month for low-income communities.
Social Gastronomy Movement
Gastromotiva’s success in aiding impoverished communities through sustainable and nutritional food practices has launched a social gastronomy movement throughout Brazil. In an interview with Cargill, Chef David Hertz explains that “social gastronomy is a human-centered solution that uses the power of food and tools of gastronomy to address some of the most complex issues in our society: poor nutrition, food waste poverty and social inequality.” As food insecurity is a global human rights issue, social gastronomy works to make food systems sustainable and equitable for all.
Gastromotiva’s network of university courses and Solidarity Kitchens have empowered and mobilized hundreds of people to make positive food change in their local communities. Food is one of the aspects of life that naturally brings people together to share time and experiences. By providing comprehensive culinary education, Gastromotiva is laying the foundation for societal changes throughout Brazil and Latin America at large. Through educating youth, there is a hope that the new generation will fully embody social gastronomy, demonstrating to the world the power of community building through food. As Gastromotiva has earned more than 23 awards for its commitment to combating food insecurity in Brazil, it may be helpful for other countries to follow Brazil’s food movement model.
The Future of Food
The enormous success of the Solidarity Kitchens program has the potential to affect the lives of millions of Latin Americans. Hertz hopes to create 1,000 Solidary Kitchens in Brazil alone by the end of the project. These kitchen networks could be a highly affordable and sustainable food practice and business model for communities worldwide. As Hertz tells Veja magazine, “collaborating with each other, we multiply our impact on the world. I wonder how to feed humanity with humanity.”
– Hannah Eliason