Chronicling community action, revolutionary and revealing thought

Monday, July 19, 2004

Food Security in Venezuela

July 19, 2004
Venezuelan president expands food security program
to help street population and opens 18 new discount
New program to benefit 600 thousand of Venezuela´s
poorest including street children
By Robin Nieto
Caracas- In a country that has long endured wide
social disparity created by an oil economy where
the wealth of oil revenues reached only a small
minority while the majority suffered from extreme
poverty, the government of Venezuela under
President Hugo Chavez continues to initiate programs
meant to provide emergency relief to those
Venezuelans most in need.  
Yesterday Chavez announced the creation of a new
food program to benefit the poorest of Venezuelans;
adults and children who live on the street.  Chavez said
the program will draw from the existing Mercal
(Mercados de Alimentos) food security program,
which consists of government supermarkets with
basic food supplies at fixed discount prices. 
Chavez announced that one thousand houses for
prepared food distribution will be opened next
week, each house with the capacity to feed
approximately 100 people, adults as well as
street children who Chavez called
´´Children of the homeland´´. 
The food used for preparation will come from the
Mercal supermarkets and staff will be in charge
of cooking and serving the food.  Those that will
most benefit from the program are pregnant
women, seniors, and children who live on the
street, Chavez said.
Four thousand food houses are scheduled to be
built to serve the needs of 600 thousand people
in extreme poverty.  Chavez explained that the
new program is temporary until that number of
 people can be taken out of
´´that abyss of misery´´ permanently.
Chavez said that 700 houses will be opened in
September, one thousand in October and 500 in November. 
Yesterday Chavez also expanded the Mercal program
by opening 18 ´´Supermercales´´ in 14 states throughout
the country.  Chavez said the Mercal program already
benefits more than 8 million Venezuelans a month,
offering more than 3 thousand tons of food daily at
discount prices. 
According to the President´s press office,
one Supermercal, opened in San Cristobal,
a city near the border with Colombia, has a
capacity to store 450 thousand metric tons
of provisions, 5 tons of fresh produce, and
5 metric tons of frozen food.  The San Cristobal
Supermercal has created 48 direct jobs for
35 men and 13 women.  
According to the press release, Mercal functions
in all 24 states of the country, offering more
than 3 tons of food daily, benefiting more
than 8 million people per month.
In the country there are 7, 287 small Mercal stores,
565 mid size Mercales, 207 large size mercales,
221 mobile Mercales, and 82 warehouses.