• Ralph Thurman

How WFP Distributes Discarded Food to Peruvians Facing Food Insecurity

The Peruvian economy has grown significantly over the past decade, which has allowed the nation’s leaders to reduce food insecurity in the country. However, many Peruvians continue to live in hunger, especially residents of rural areas. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Peruvians to fall into food insecurity, including many in the capital city of Lima.

In collaboration with the NGO Banco de Alimentos (Food Bank) and the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), the World Food Programme (WFP) is working toward tackling food insecurity in Peru through a discarded food distribution program. Let’s learn more about this program and how these groups are working to ensure that all Peruvians eventually know from where their next meal is coming.

Poverty and Food Insecurity in Peru

According to WFP data, approximately 22 percent of Peruvians live in poverty with severely limited access to food. In addition, 13.1 percent of children under 5 are chronically malnourished. These statistics are troubling, but food insecurity has dropped significantly in Peru due to economic growth, expanded social programs, and investments in infrastructure, health care, and education.

The chronic child malnutrition rate was once double its current figure, as this problem has been halved over the past decade. However, malnutrition varies significantly from region to region, with a rate of over 33 percent in remote rural areas with larger indigenous populations.

Though on a positive trajectory, poverty and food insecurity remain serious problems in Peru. However, WFP believes the nation is on track to become one of the first countries to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ending hunger and all types of malnutrition throughout the country.

Where Does the Excess Food Come From?

As Peru’s capital and largest city, Lima is a major agricultural producer and distributor for the entire metropolitan area. Each morning, a wholesale food market in the city’s Santa Anita district sends off 5,000 metric tons of produce to be sold throughout the region. However, every day, tons of this food remain unsold and are designated to be discarded.

WFP is working to minimize this unnecessary waste by collecting and donating the food to food banks and community soup kitchens, which thousands of residents rely on to meet their daily food needs.

WFP’s First Food Rescue Mission

The first food rescue mission collected 15 tons of food from the wholesale market and brought them to a collection center. From there, 50 volunteers cleaned, sorted, and classified a wide range of produce, including the following:

- Potatoes

- Bananas

- Cucumbers

- Green beans

- Spinach

- Olluco tubers

- Basil

- Parsley

- Squash

- Leeks

- Pineapples

- Lemons

- Papayas

The volunteer team was composed of soup kitchen volunteers and others from the districts of San Juan de Lurigancho and Chorrillos, which are located at the northern and southern ends of the metropolitan area, respectively.

Following six hours of strenuous work, the volunteers classified 12 tons of food as suitable for consumption and sent them to soup kitchens throughout the area. Since the early days of the pandemic, Lima has seen its number of soup kitchens balloon due to unprecedented demand created by the socioeconomic challenges of COVID-19.

How the Excess Food is Distributed in Lima

This program relies on various soup kitchens that are managed and subsidized by local authorities. These kitchens sell meals at lower prices. They also act as distribution centers for 25 community soup kitchens that supply free meals to approximately 3,000 people daily.

Following the first mission, the Santa Rosa de Lima soup kitchen in San Juan de Lurigancho received six times its normal shipment of food supplies, which were previously delivered every two weeks from the Banco de Alimentos.

Over the next six months, the partnership of WFP, BHA, and Banco de Alimentos managed to rescue and distribute over 600 tons of food.

How Else Does WFP Fight Food Insecurity in Peru?

The food rescue program is just one component of WFP’s comprehensive food security plan for Peru. The main tenets of this strategy include:

- Advocacy and communication. The organization collaborates with Peruvian leaders to build a campaign dedicated to ending hunger and malnutrition for all Peruvians by 2030. This campaign focuses on emphasizing food security and nutrition in politics and the public discourse.

- Nutrition. WFP works with the government to encourage behavioral changes related to nutrition issues through various communication strategies, along with how to implement nutrition innovation models tailored to specific regional and cultural variables.

- Disaster preparation. Unexpected disasters create additional food insecurity, so it is important to be prepared. WFP works to help government institutions plan for and manage disaster risks, as well as to prevent and reduce the effects of these disasters on food security and nutrition through social safety nets.

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