The return of high levels of hunger in Brazil, after a period in which it had been greatly reduced, reflects the history of normalisation of hunger in the country, according to a new report published today by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). It highlights that half the population currently face some degree of food insecurity, and 33 million are experiencing hunger.
The report points out that this is not a problem confined to Brazil, with large numbers of people in other middle- and high-income countries such as South Africa and the UK unable to meet their basic food needs. The extent to which this has become a day-to-day life experience for large sections of the population, and is not being widely resisted or protested against, suggests that hunger is becoming normalised.
Renato Maluf, Coordinator of the Brazilian Centre of Reference in Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security (CERESAN) said:
“In Brazil, historic inequities mean that hunger and food insecurity affect some groups of people more than others: households identifying as black or brown, households led by women, and families with children. Food insecurity disproportionately affects these groups; while unhealthy diets and ultra-processed food, which is directly linked to increased risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases, are more widespread.”
Lídia Cabral, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and co-author of the report said:
“The problem is not about a shortage of food. It is about unequal access to food, driven by deep-rooted inequalities and inequities. To address hunger and food insecurity in Brazil, we need to focus on these systemic inequities to ensure that everyone has access to nutritious, affordable and sustainable food.”
The report highlights that a reversal in supportive policymaking from around 2016 has contributed towards the challenges that many Brazilians are facing with food security and healthy diets. Civil society organisations are trying to push back, and the recent change of government holds out the prospect of a return to Brazil’s ‘zero hunger’ ambitions, but warns that there is still a long way to go.
The IDS report ‘Pathways to Achieving Equitable Food Systems’ finds that inequities in food systems are the result of deliberate choices by powerful entities. The report identifies approaches to counter these power imbalances and build more equitable food systems:
- Placing more emphasis on bringing together community- and government- level actions which can specifically target inequity.
- Pursuing multiple approaches to tackling challenges within food systems, rather than investing heavily in single initiatives, which are likely to lack inclusivity and lead to ‘locking-in’ policies that could make the situation even worse.
- Paying closer attention to who will benefit most from proposed solutions, challenging initiatives where they do not explicitly support marginalised people.
- Finding spaces for the voices of those suffering from inequity.