One in four Argentines receives food assistance through official plans

The pandemic exacerbated poverty and worsened food shortages. Today 11 million people -one in four Argentines- receive some type of food assistance from the State. Before the quarantine, there were 8 million people in that situation.

During the first six months of 2020, the Ministry of Social Development allocated $ 60,000 million to these programs, four times the $ 15,000 million that had been used for this purpose throughout all of 2019.

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Today, food assistance includes several programs: the Food Card, transfers to community canteens and picnic areas, and the delivery of dry food to families, as well as training modules to improve nutrition.

The Alimentar card began to be implemented during the summer. It is intended for 1.5 million households with children under 6 years of age who also receive the Universal Child Allowance (AUH). Depending on the number of dependent children, each family charges between $ 4,000 and $ 6,000 a month.

On the other hand, the transfers for the operation of the community canteens reached $ 1,500 million in the first semester, 20% more than the $ 1,900 million that were allocated in all of last year. For picnic areas, shipments for the first half were $ 922 million.

According to the survey of the Ministry of Social Development, today in the country there are 10,000 dining rooms, including picnic areas and popular pots.

The ministry also allocated $ 3.5 billion in the semester to deliver food to social organizations for the population in a situation of social vulnerability.

“What we did this year was quadruple food aid,” says Minister Daniel Arroyo. “Before the pandemic it was about $ 5 billion a month, today it is $ 14 billion.”

After the controversy over the start of the quarantine, when allegations arose that the ministry paid for food at prices far higher than anyone could find in supermarkets, Arroyo remarks that the maximum price scheme is being respected in tenders. . “We have between 600 and 800 companies of all sizes registered on this platform; this encourages decentralization. Those who quote above the maximum prices are rejected directly by the system. Now we have just made a purchase of 8.5 million kilos of dry food. ”

The Alimentar card is paid on the third Friday of each month. Arroyo says that when payment occurs “in the following days, people’s attendance at the dining rooms decreases. It also decreases when people have the possibility of going out to do” changas “, especially in the construction and textile sectors. quarantine was relaxed after July 17, attendance dropped ”

What will happen from now on with food assistance? All analysts agree that poverty will increase in the rest of the year, while employment will fall. The higher the quarantine, the stronger the blow. In this context, Arroyo points out that food assistance to vulnerable sectors “is going to drop a little. We are not going to continue with 11 million, but this year it will not return to the pre-epidemic situation.”

“The resources will continue to grow. I want to reach the end of the year with a distribution of the resources of the ministry that derive 50% to finance work plans and another 50% for food assistance, but without this implying a drop in the resources that go to food assistance, “says the minister.

For now, he anticipates that in the coming weeks they will add more families to the Food Card, adding new mothers and pregnant women. They estimate that an additional 150,000 to 200,000 beneficiaries will be added.

For the post-pandemic, the Government continues to debate whether it will move forward with Arroyo’s idea of ​​applying a basic income that reaches some 3 million families and is complementary to the AUH, or if there will be new batches of the Emergency Family Income (IFE). The payment of this $ 10,000 bonus is about to enter a third round, which will begin to be paid on Monday, August 10 for 9 million people. With the quarantine extension, it is not ruled out that a fourth payment is enabled. “Basic income is under study, there is no definition yet. We are constantly analyzing how the situation evolves,” says Arroyo.

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