SEATTLE, Washington — Located in South America, Argentina is a coastal nation with a population of over 45 million. Argentina’s long history of colonialism, conflict and civil unrest have all led to its ongoing struggle with poverty. Even as a strong agricultural exporter, a consequence of such poverty is the high rate of hunger in Argentina, which has long been a humanitarian crisis and often a politicalized issue.
The Problem in Numbers
A U.N. report indicates that the number of people in Argentina experiencing grave food insecurity rose from 2.5 million to five million from 2014 to 2018. When combined with the numbers of those who experience food insecurity more infrequently, the number rises to 14 million people or 32% of the population.
In 2001, the Argentinian peso rapidly lost value, resulting in mass unemployment and poverty rates consequently rose. By 2002, the same year the nation hosted the World Cup, Argentina’s federal government declared a financial crisis. As part of the government’s efforts to boost the economy and socioeconomic well-being, it passed a temporary bill declaring a national food emergency at the end of 2002.
In 2018, 3.8% of the Argentinian population were classified as undernourished, a significant rise from 2014 statistics of 2.5.%. Yet data from 2016 indicates that over 62% of Argentinians were overweight, over 26% obese and over 10% suffered from diabetes. These statistics from both spectrums largely stem from inadequate diets, possibly based on insufficient access to wholesome, nutritious foods. Argentinians, on average, over-consume red and processed meats as well as sugar and sodium, while under consuming vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. From this, it is clear that ample room exists for improving nutritious food accessibility in Argentina.
Agriculture and Exports
Argentina produces enough food to feed its people but its economy relies on the exportation of most of that food. With 7.2%, approximately $32 billion, of its GDP derived from the agricultural industry, Argentina is one of the world’s most agriculture-centered economies. In 2018, over half of Argentina’s exported goods were agricultural products. Additionally, of the total Argentinian population, 1% survive on $1.90 or less per day, meaning that approximately 451,958 people have an annual salary of less than $695. As a result of this degree of poverty, many face hunger in Argentina.
Improved legislative action surrounding hunger in Argentina has been taken. In response to weeks of protests demanding improved food distribution and hunger relief in Buenos Aires and across the nation, the Argentinian Senate unanimously passed an emergency food bill in September 2019. The law ensures a minimum of 50% increased funding directed towards safety nets and programs for food and nutrition programs until December 2022. Unlike the legislative action taken in 2002, the 2019 bill aims to restructure the agricultural and food service sectors, which waste upwards of 16 million tons or 12.5% of all domestically produced food each year. With food prices rising, Argentinians grow anxious that their stagnant salaries will not be enough to feed their families. While the new 2019 law is projected to inject approximately $184 million into improved food distribution, many already experiencing hunger in Argentina remain wary of another empty promise in the form of broad legislative action.
Nonprofits Tackle Hunger
Nonprofits in Argentina are improving hunger in Argentina. For decades, nonprofits like Help Argentina and the Huerta Niño Foundation, have helped to fill the gaps in Argentinas food distribution chains that leave millions hungry. Another one of these nonprofits, Pequenos Pasos, is working in Buenos Aires to provide food for 850 low-income families who now face hunger due to COVID-19’s economic implications. In addition to providing these families health and hygiene resources, Pequenos Pasos aims to deliver a month’s worth of essential food items based on the needs of the family.
Legislative action in recent years combined with nonprofit support has undoubtedly improved hunger in Argentina. Regardless, with a complex economic dependency on agriculture exports, high unemployment rates and a lack of data covering food accessibility, Argentina continues to face a food crisis. Moving forward, the nation will require bolstered and permanent safety nets to ensure hunger rates continue to decline.
– Caledonia Strelow