He Barrio 21 24, is the largest settlement in the City of Buenos Aires. There is the community kitchen “Semillas en rebeldía” promoted by the FOL (Front of Organizations in Fight), one of the many that operate in that popular neighborhood where more than 50 thousand people live.
“Two more dining rooms were created, but the food was not doubled”, says Maruja, one of the many working women who run this dining room. She refers to the impact of the lack of price control in recent times, which devours the purchasing power of salaries and popular incomes every day. Consequently, in the last year poverty went from 36.5% to 40.1%, There are 1.7 million new poor.
This impact accelerated with the devaluation of Sergio Massa -the Peronist candidate– at the request of the IMF after PASO. Official data from Indec confirmed that the price increase in the month of August was the largest in three decades, reaching 12.4% compared to July. In this way, in the first eight months of the year there is an accumulated increase of 80.2%, while the interannual measurement rose to 124.4%. Food and non-alcoholic beverages were the item that increased the most with 15.6% in just 1 month.
Multiply the loaves
“It’s not enough anymore, inflation is too high. And as always, we have no choice but to prepare ourselves as best we can in the dining rooms.”
The dining room prepared meals daily for 80 families, which is approximately 400 dinners that are delivered every afternoon. In just one month the number of meals jumped to 95, “there are many families that are coming, we explain what it is like, how we organize ourselves. For those who have many children it is worse, the situation is screwed,” the workers say. 60% of children live in povertyaccording to the latest official data.
Despite the sharp increase in prices that multiplied popular needsthe amount of food they receive in the self-managed canteens remains the same.
Las remarks that followed the devaluation post PASO were especially felt in the basic basket foods. The ten GBA products that increased the most according to Indec were: common minced meat (+39%), Shoulder (+34%), Quadril (+33%), Buttock (+33%), Roast (+32%), Tomato (32%), Potato (+28%), Whole Chicken (+21%), Cookies (+19%), Eggs (+18%).
From the dining room they receive food with different delivery frequencies (depending on the type), with which they must prepare the assigned biweekly menu. In relation to food and nutritional quality, they explain that, for example, meat is not delivered daily, it arrives “every week and another.” But since the fortnightly menu has not changed, something common is that they have to prepare ravioli, polenta or noodles with pink sauce, all without meat and in the same week.
“If before we gave meat every day, today we give it three times a week. The budget was not cut, the issue is that costs went up.”
In August, popular cuts of meat such as minced meat increased by 39%. For the popular sectors, meat became a luxury. Those who juggle are the cooksnot just to stretch the rations.
The dining room also receives dry food every week and fresh food daily. During the afternoons, while the neighbors come to pick up the food, a glass of milk is distributed at the dining room door, sometimes with a little bread.
Maruja comments that Recently they opened two more dining rooms, which do not receive dairy. From “Semillas en rebellion” they share milk, solidarity from below becomes concrete when everything is missing. The importance of having a plate of hot food every day, or a glass of milk, is part of a collective, community work.
Who pays for the crisis?
Los self-managed dining rooms They receive different foods from the government, but they have other fixed expenses that are not covered. For example, to operate you need a physical space and this implies rent. Or the cooking gas, an essential and necessary service, which is also not guaranteed. This means that for the operation of the dining room that provides dinner to more than 90 families, the rent and the cooking jugs come out of the pockets of the neighbors.
In this dining room they pay around $70,000 rent. In the month of August alone, rents increased by 25%. Access to decent housing is a major problem faced by the working class and poor people. In relation to the gas bottles, who use on average 3 of 10 kg per week, spend almost $9 thousand, since in the neighborhood they cost almost $3 thousand each. They are evaluating returning to the use of firewood for cooking, because gas is too expensive.
However, inflation impacts differently between social classes, increasing inequality. Not everyone loses, benefiting from the government’s measures, large companies have been earning millions in this country.
This is the case of food. The great concentration allows mega groups like Arcor y Río de la Plata Mills, having “market” power to raise prices seeking not only to cover inflation, but also to increase profits. Between 2022 and the present, its profit margin was around 10-15%, according to a report from Centro Cifra.
“These are levels much higher than the records for the 2015-2017 period (2.7% and 0.9%) and the accounting losses declared during the crisis that took place in the 2018-2019 biennium,” the report maintains.
In the first 6 months of 2023 Arcor earned $22 billion and Molinos more than $9.5 billion.
reality from below
Inflation punishes popular pocket more harshly to the point of making it almost impossible to meet basic needs such as eating. The food basket – which measures the homeless line– increased by 17% in August, reaching $130 mil (for a family of 4 members). Indec also confirmed that 50% of workers earn up to $120 thousand, They are poor and hungry.
While the projections towards the end of the year worsen and some approach 200%, such as the risk consultancy Moody’s, Massa’s line is to deepen the adjustment to comply with the IMF. The different measures announced in electoral terms are not enough to compensate for the loss caused after the August devaluation. In that month, funds allocated to the Universal Child Allowance fell 27% year-on-year. Milei threatens with the chainsaw, but Massa executes. The employer variants for October promise devaluation and adjustment to the popular sectors, and to continue benefiting the large business community.
Capturing and showing reality from below is essential not only to denounce the effect of these measures, but to raise the urgency of a fundamental exit. The colleagues who run this soup kitchen are part of the FOL, a social organization that has been mobilizing both the GCBA and Social Development, being part of this fight. This organization calls on the leftist list headed by Myriam Bregman and Nicolás Del Caño to vote, against the right and the jousters. The organized working class and poor people have the social force necessary to turn everything aroundand the capitalists will pay for the crisis.