In the city of Belo Horizonte, close to 210,000 people live in conditions of extreme poverty, and poor nutrition is rampant. Yet, the city produces almost 2,000 tons of domestic waste, 60% of which is organic waste, with 40.5% resulting from food leftovers. In other words, waste and hunger live side by side.
In July 2003, the Municipal Government created the Municipal Incentive Program for Food Donation – Food Bank, within the federal Zero Hunger Program. The Food Bank aims to collect and distribute supplies adequate for consumption to the population living in situations of social vulnerability. Throughout the Program’s planning phase, a number of activities took place: innovators analyzed municipal domestic waste and established the Municipal Council of Food Safety. Using the Council, the Program outlined public policies for managing solid waste and for nutrition and food safety and brokered Terms of Cooperation Agreements between the Office for Urban Waste (SLU) and the Municipal Department of Provision and Food Safety (SMAB). As regulations for food providers emerged, the Council also began to identify and list beneficiaries, and to train staff to put the new policies into practice.
A sub-program of the Food Bank is the Food Supply Program – Organic Produce and Eco-Citizenship, which consists of a system for collecting, processing and distributing perishable food that, although adequate for consumption, will not be sold by greengrocers or supermarkets. Distribution of food supplies currently benefits 89 organizations and approximately 15,000 people residing in areas of extreme poverty. The Program is responsible for 78% of food distributed by the Belo Horizonte Food Bank, reaching 5% of the population in deeply impoverished conditions.
The Program is managed jointly by the Office for Urban Waste and the Municipal Department of Provision and Food Safety, together with the Municipal Council of Food Safety. The SLU is responsible for operational aspects, including collection, selection, classification, processing, storage, providing for the Food Bank, and sending leftovers to the Compost Unit. In order to reduce costs and generate jobs, the SLU works alongside the non-profit charity organization Society of São Vicente de Paulo, which receives government resources to collect and process the provisions. The SMAB manages the Food Bank itself, selecting the organizations to be benefited, distributing provisions, offering training courses in food preparation and optimum use, and monitoring all stages of the process. The Council of Food Safety defines the criteria for selecting Program beneficiaries. Interaction between agencies occurs through periodic meetings and visits to food providers.
The Program’s main focus is to involve civil society in search of solutions for fighting hunger through waste reduction, diminishing the 40.5% of food waste within the municipality while offering food to citizens in situations of extreme poverty. Other expected benefits of this initiative include reduction of waste destined for the municipal dump, and a more substantial production of organic compost that can be used in parks and public school gardens and vegetable patches.
By articulating two important target areas –- hunger reduction and solid waste management -– the Food Supply Program introduces an efficient alternative method for fighting hunger, poverty, and waste in Belo Horizonte. Processing donations avoids depleting financial resources, reduces waste, and improves nutrition. The municipal initiative proves that it is possible to be daring and innovative at the local level by integrating the efforts of government, civil society and the private sector to assist national initiatives designed to eradicate hunger and poverty.
- Encouraging the private sector and civil society to re-think organic waste can provide valuable partnerships in fighting hunger and poverty.
- Redistributing food supplies that are already available instead of throwing away left-over produce cuts Food Bank costs and reduces waste, fulfilling both social and environmental purposes.