The Economist reports that Denize Xavier de Carvalho , a 40-year-old single mother, scoops rice onto the four plates in front of her. She adds a small spoonful of beans to each one as she turns off the stove.
The pressure cooker sitting on the burner hisses as it cools, with a few chicken feet inside to feed her and her three children. This is the first time the family, who live in a slum in Rio de Janeiro, have eaten meat in months. Ms Carvalho, who lost her job as a waitress at the beginning of the pandemic, often can only feed her children bread and margarine. “It’s really hard,” she says, “to hear your children crying for a piece of bread and sometimes not having anything to give them.”
For decades malnutrition was a problem in Brazil, as the country struggled to lift millions of families out of extreme poverty. In the mid-1990s a series of programmes, starting with the creation of a National Council for Food and Nutritional Security (CONSEA), began to curb poverty rates, and with it rates of hunger.
Thanks to the commodity boom in the 2000s, and a push under the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was president from 2003 until 2011, Brazil was removed from the list of undernourished countries in the World Food Programme’s Hunger Map in 2014. This was achieved by a mix of policies, including the introduction of a national school-meals programme, an increase in the minimum wage and the Bolsa Família (family grant), which provided stipends to people who kept their children in school.