Urban Farming

Food shortages take toll on Venezuelans’ diet

Nutritionists point to long-term health risks of low-quality meat as basic staples are hard to find or being sold at exorbitant prices

Not so long ago, whenever Juan Gonzlez would go to the butcher hed buy a few nice steaks for himself and cow lung, known here as bofe , to chop up and feed his dog.

Now bofe is what I eat, when I can get it, said the 55 -year-old elevator repairman on a street in the Venezuelan capital.

With prolonged shortages of basic foods, Venezuelans have been forced to change their diets to whatever they can find. And what they can find is not inevitably healthy.

Milk, flesh and beans the main sources of protein in the Venezuelan diet are hard to find or sold at exorbitant rates, and many are filling up on empty carbs from pasta, rice and the traditional arepa cornmeal cake.

These fill you up and stimulate you fat but they are not nutritious, mentioned nutritionist Hctor Cruces. Viscera are high in fat and low-pitched on protein.

A study exposed last-place month by Venezuelas top three universities showed that 12% of those polled said they were feeing less than three meals a day.

And those who do have access to three meals have appreciated a deterioration in the high quality of its diet, mentioned Marianella Herrera-Cuenca, of the Bengoa Foundation, an NGO dedicated to promoting nutrition.

Children and the elderly are hardest hit. Researchers from the Bengoa Foundation mentioned a sampling of 4, 000 school-aged offsprings presented 30% were malnourished and that academy absences were on the increases.

Paula Arciniegas, 19, told me that she to be concerned about the development of her two-year-old daughter because when she cant find milk which is often she appeased their own children thirst with a mix of sea and cornstarch.

And I try to get her to sleep through the morning so I dont have to worry about her breakfast, she said.

Cruces, the nutritionist, was expected that benefit of future generations of Venezuelans will be shorter and wider because of the low quality of the meat they are consuming. The absence of calcium will stunt rise and extravagance carbohydrates will stimulate them fat, he said.

Critics of the socialist government of Nicols Maduro reply food production collapsed in the oil-reliant country due to a mix of the expropriation of farmland and agro-industrial enterprises and strict price control that stimulated importing meat cheaper than inducing it locally. But a byzantine money command structure and plummeting oil prices have slashed imports of raw materials and food products.

Empresas Polar, the countrys largest food processor, warned last-place month it was halting brew product due to a lack of barley, and Coca-Cola said its low-pitched carbohydrate inventories may force it to stop production of soft drinks.

Government advocates say its all part of a destabilisation program backed by a rightwing opposition and foreign interests that want to see Maduro ousted from power.

To counter that economic struggle, Maduro has urged people to grow their own meat and heighten chickens in their homes and established government ministries of urban farming; more than 80% of Venezuelans live in cities.

Rafael Camacho, 56, took the relevant recommendations to heart. Originally from the urban part of Barlovento where his family had a farm, Camacho says he has dredged up what he learned as a child to assist feed his family of nine. On a gradient behind his half-built residence on the hills above Caracas, he proudly proves off the bud flowers of corn, squash, bananas, melon and beans. On the rooftop of his home he planted cilantro and peppers and various herbs.

Rafael Camacho proves off his rooftop veggie and herb garden-variety in Caracas. Photo: Sibylla Brodzinsky

Im a farmer by nature, I know how to do this, he supposes.

Camacho still has to stand in line for rice, cornflour, flesh and other staples. But with this we know we wont go hungry.

The government is also promoting direct sales from producers in the countryside to consumers.

In the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Carapita, residents lined up to buy vegetables delivered directly from Trujillo state to their community centre. There, they were able to mixture and match potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beets, red peppers and cabbage at 355 bolivars (8 2 cents at the most important one official exchange rate) per kilo. At informal street market prices, they could go for as much as 1,000 bolivars ($ 2.33) per kilo.

Around the corner, for 300 bolivars( 70 cents) they could buy a prefilled pouch of small portions of prepare oil, pasta, rice, flour and sugar.

This is how we are fighting the economic struggle, supposes Americo Jaramillo, spokesman for the community council.

In a country hooked on processed food, the famines have forced some to get creative. For most Venezuelans a snack isnt a snack if there are no arepas. Since processed cornflour is hard to find newspapers give readers recipes on how to stimulate them from plantains, yucca or yams.

But on a steep mound in in the Petare district of Caracas, Mara Hidalgo, has refused to give up on traditional corn arepas.

She drew out an old corn mill she had in a closet, rigged it up to a small motor and started shaping her own cornmeal dough, selling to friends and neighbours.

Its like going back in time, she said.

Read more: http :// www.theguardian.com/ us

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