The former socialist president of Brazil Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva grew up poor and knew what it was like to be hungry as a child. When he took office in 2003, he said that food was a basic human right and launched the Zero Hunger program. Part of it involves government-run restaurants that serve everyone healthy meals at low prices. This Marketplace report describes one such restaurant:
This is Popular Restaurant No. 2. It’s one of five government-run cafeterias in the city where you can get a heaping plate full of hot food for only two reais, about $1.10. When the doors open at 11, people start streaming in. This used to be only for the poor. Now college students sit next to senior citizens, and construction workers next to homeless people; there are nurses from the hospital across the street having lunch here, and cops in uniforms. On the menu today: rice, beans, ground beef, salad and an apple. In an hour and a half, more than 4,000 people get lunch. This happens three times a day, five days a week.
But the government also put into place a web of social services and instituted cash transfers to poor people and encouraged education. As a result, Brazil has become one of the models for how to reduce hunger and poverty.
Food as a basic human right. Providing cheap meals to everyone. Providing social services and cash to poor people. Oh, these Brazilians with their crazy socialist ideas!
Of course, here in the US, we believe in cash transfers too. Except that the money goes from the poor to the rich.