Lula da Silva’s Bolsa Familia: A Mission to Feed Every Brazilian

After facing difficulties in the last decade, Brazil hopes to reinvigorate its fight against food insecurity by building on the progress made in the early 21st century. In 2018, 36.7% of households experienced food insecurity. At the end of 2022, the rate of households with food insecurity increased to 58.7%. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity rose again, affecting 33.1 million Brazilians.
However, the fight against hunger in Brazil is not without hope. In November 2022, President Lula da Silva proposed the Bolsa Familia program, which, as part of the government’s Zero Hunger strategy, achieved a 31% reduction in childhood malnutrition from 2003 to 2013. What’s more, the recent successes of financial institutions such as the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) demonstrate progression in fighting hunger despite the challenging socio-economic conditions of today.

Difficulties Facing Brazil

Brazil suffers from extreme levels of inequality. More than 50% of the population experiences some sort of food insecurity. This is despite it being the world’s fourth-biggest producer of grain and the biggest producer of beef.

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 only increased the burden on a fragile health system and poor national living conditions, which include the lack of access to water and basic sanitation. All of this limits the biological use of nutrients and puts people at risk of developing malnutrition.

21st-Century Victories in the Fight Against Food Insecurity

From 2003 to 2014, the Zero Hunger strategy conducted by the federal government formed public infrastructures, such as Public Infrastructure for Food and Nutrition Security (EPSAN), with the goal of supporting the Human Right to Adequate Food. In 2010, the country’s Constitution made this right fundamentally guaranteed. While other countries in the Americas offer similar programs, most are not publicly institutionalized. This is a distinction often accused of negating public involvement.

Due to the expansion of facilities such as EPSAN, by 2020, 87 public food banks, 104 popular restaurants and 189 community kitchens were in operation in Brazil. In addition to this, Lula da Silva’s original Bolsa Familia, or family allowance, gave struggling families a cash transfer. This was highly successful in increasing food security. The Zero Hunger program helped 20 million people escape poverty. Furthermore, 90% of Lula da Silva’s Bolsa Familia beneficiaries felt their access to food improved.

A Look Ahead

With the return of Lula da Silva’s Bolsa Familia program, Brazil’s most impoverished families can receive 600 Real (about $120) a month for the next four years. This is a total of 198 billion Real a year paid by the government. During parliamentary negotiations, Lula da Silva personally engaged himself to pass the social program, showing his commitment to the cause. Overall, Brazil continues to show that, despite facing challenging trends and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is room for progress and positive results in the fight against food insecurity.
Gabriel Gathercole

Photo: Flickr