The food it is a fundamental right, mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This right, however, is still disregarded, not only in the most fragile countries, which are experiencing situations of war and famine but, increasingly, also in Italy. This is confirmed by the second edition of ActionAid’s Report on food poverty, issued in October, on the occasion of World Food Day. The report highlights how the pandemic has played a decisive role in this problem. In fact, a year and a half after its debut, Istat data show an increase of one million absolute poor and, as ActionAid also recalls, economic poverty is a fundamental factor in determining the lack of access to adequate food. “In our first publication – explains Roberto Sensi, head of the association’s food poverty program – we raised the alarm concerning the worsening of the problem due to Covid. Now we have seen that this is a problem that seems destined to persist ”.
In the first place However, it is necessary to clarify the particular approach to the theme proposed by ActionAid, the issue of food poverty taken into consideration by the report does not simply concern the right not to die of hunger, but the broader human right to eat with dignity, that is, guaranteeing also the choice and quality (also understood in terms of nutritional adequacy). “There is an excessive simplification in the way in which food poverty is told – clarifies Sensi -, the data considered are generally those collected by the assistance agencies that provide food, but these constitute only the tip of a much wider iceberg and complex”.
And in any case useful to start from the numbers. In 2020, 2,645,064 people in Italy benefited from food aid under the Fund for European Aid to the Poor (Fead) program (+ 27.3% compared to 2019). The report also indicates that these people should also be added, albeit with probable overlaps, to those who during 2020 had access to other forms of support, both through vouchers and, directly, with food. Considering who received the first 400 million euros in shopping vouchers provided for by the urgent food solidarity measures adopted by the government during the lockdown, for example, the National Association of Italian Municipalities (Anci) estimates that there were 4.3 million people ( 7% of the population). To these data must then be added many solidarity initiatives born from below and not officially registered. ActionAid, however, aims to go beyond these data, understanding the phenomenon of food poverty in a more articulated way.
I study investigates food poverty in all its aspects, through a questionnaire submitted to families who have contacted some assistance organizations in four municipalities in the Milanese hinterland. “We have analyzed this territory – explains Sensi -, because it is a province particularly affected by Covid also from a socio-economic point of view. Furthermore, these decentralized municipalities do not enjoy the advantages offered by the initiatives implemented by the municipality of Milan, but they can count on a dense network of food assistance bodies. The analysis considers the different dimensions of food poverty, addressing the challenges and difficulties that families face to access sufficient food, in the context of a pandemic that has further precarious their lives. We believe it is particularly useful to evaluate this issue from a qualitative point of view. An exclusively quantitative approach, in fact, does not allow to activate effective contrast systems, because it does not consider that the demand for food aid is the visible expression of a deeper problem, which affects fundamental aspects of psychophysical well-being ”.
The painting that emerges from the interviews conducted by ActionAid, which in all probability would be confirmed even if many other contexts in the Italian province were investigated, is that of a situation in which women are the most exposed subjects. These, in fact, generally undertake to guarantee the food supply for the families, giving up if necessary to feed themselves adequately for the benefit, in particular, of the children. The problem, however, it should be remembered, does not only concern the quantity of food, but also its adequacy to nutritional needs, often largely neglected even when it is possible to reach a sufficient caloric intake.
“The policies of contrast put in place so far – explains Sensi -, have mainly had an emergency character. With the pandemic, however, food poverty has become a social issue as it has not been for at least 30 years and the limits of the initiatives implemented are now more evident. The system of redistribution of surpluses, developed in recent years, is undoubtedly useful, the private social and non-profit organizations do a lot, but these cannot be the answers of the institutions. First of all, the latter must undertake a complete statistical survey to assess the size of the problem and take adequate countermeasures ”.
The distribution of food entrusted to associations is therefore not according to ActionAid the answer capable of resolving the question in a structural way. Rather, real income support and free and universal access to school canteens would be needed, which should be understood as an essential service to protect a fragile group such as that of children. “The shopping vouchers issued on the occasion of the pandemic represented a starting point – underlines Sensi -, but they also have many critical aspects, starting with the distribution criteria and the emergency nature. To assess the extent of income support that is adequate for individual rights, the government must correctly consider the average cost of a healthy and decent diet. A cost that, for a family of four, exceeds 700 euros per month “.
© Reserved reproduction; Photos: Fotolia, AdobeStock, Martin / ActionAid
For 11 years Il Fatto Alimentare has been publishing news on: products, labels, misleading advertising, food safety … and gives readers completely free access to all contents. On the site we do not accept advertisements disguised as articles and we select advertiser companies. To move forward with this transparency policy and maintain our independence, support the site. Donate now!
Roberto La Pira