A Program To Eradicate Hunger

A Program To Eradicate Hunger

By Jesús Aguado

In the State of Guanajuato there are five food banks. One of them is in San Miguel—the Banco de Alimentos de San Miguel (Food Bank of SM), known as BASMA.  Members of the state congress are working to approve a new law—Ley de Fomento a la Donacion de Alimentos (Law for the Promotion of Food Donations), which is intended to minimize food waste and promote donation of food where it’s needed. Accordingly, there is a Citizens’ Council that is in charge of collecting and distributing of food throughout the state to those groups that are most needy.

“I congratulate the food banks for their work. It is commendable that it’s the citizens themselves who seek this manner of regulation (of the law), and that we have a major impact on the results,” stated Congresswoman Katya Soto—promoter of the law. 

The law (actually a socialization process), would also include “punishing those who attempt to profit from or negatively manipulate the distribution or donation of surplus products; we propose a fine of 100 to 10,000 times the daily value of minimum wage (123.33 pesos),” said Congresswoman Soto.

BASMA

The Food Bank of San Miguel—BASMA, was created 18 months ago in the city. Laura Torres, president of the organization, spoke to Atencion regarding the start of the program. According to her, Marcela Peimbert, who works with surplus food, was the one who brought to their attention “a program that exists in Egypt to collect food and distribute it. The project in Egypt currently distributes a million and a half rations of food to the poor.”

The project in San Miguel began, and a link was made with restaurants in the city. Now BASMA uses a food truck to brings warm rations of food to needy communities and neighborhoods, always conscious of not interfering with the work of other food distribution projects—either public or civic.

Torres explained that this food bank is different from the Red Nacional de Bancos de Alimentos (National Network of Food Banks), such as the one in Leon which is a depository of foods. San Miguel’s program is unique because it has a space within UTASMA—Universidad Tecnologica (Technological University) of San Miguel—where food is cooked and then distributed to those in need. She explained that “we supply from our food pantry, but that is not our main function.” For example, “Costco has given us frozen turkeys and at UTASMA we cook and distribute them.” She also said that BASMA has teamed up with the Banco de Alimentos de Celaya because it’s independent.

According to Torres, many communities around San Miguel are agricultural and they do have food; however, they lack animal protein, which leads to nutritional deficiency. “It is not only a matter of satisfying hunger, it is also a matter of nourishing the body,” she added.

The Initiative

Congresswoman Katya Soto told Atención that “there is a lot of food waste” and that is why the law attempts to create more food banks and have society and government work together to reach more communities.

“We are bringing about the initiative of the law so that society and government support each other and have joint public projects to favor those who most need it. There is also the idea of having more [food] banks, and that we work together so there is less waste, which leads to contamination and penalties. Those who waste food should suffer penalties. We understand that there are processes that lead to waste, however, there are norms that delineate the parameters, and those who process [food] must comply with the quality standards. Those products that are in good condition should be taken advantage of.”

The law’s intentions, available on the commentary pages of El Congreso de Estado (State Congress), are fourfold: to promote donations of food, avoid food waste, create public and government collaboration, and institute fines.

The law has been reviewed in three places—San Miguel, Guanajuato, and León—where it was presented in order to get comments from civil organizations and the public. It is now undergoing revisions by the Comisión de Economia del Congreso Local (Economic Commission of Local Congress). It is expected to be approved during the current session of congress, which concludes in September.

Applying sanctions

Soto indicated that penalties will be imposed on those who waste food and who fail to follow national and international standards. “Some of these already have sanctions have been imposed by other laws,” she said. She added that penalties will be sought for anyone who wastes food; however, she explained that food banks do not have regulations by law, only the committees that will be formed once the law is in effect will regulate the food banks.

According to Torres, it is not so much a matter of punishment as of creating a [new] conscience because 30 percent of food goes into the garbage. “If we can recover this through the promotion of donations, we could end hunger.” She explained that instead of applying sanctions, they will be working toward providing inducements for those who donate, such as tax breaks, which they receive from NGOs. Congresswoman Soto said that what is intended is a collaboration between government and the food banks. “We are a state where there is nutritional deficiency, three percent (more than 200 thousand people) fall within this category, although when compared to the national statistics, we are not doing so poorly.”

Rosewood, a constant and consistent donor

The Rosewood Hotel chain maintains a sense of social responsibility and has donated to different organizations since its inception. It is one of the benefactors of BASMA. The hotel has been donating excess food or pastries, and prepares food specifically for those organizations it supports. Among these are: The Red Cross, Corazon Valiente, Santa Julia, Mexiquito, Fundacion de Apoyo Infantil (Child Support Foundation), and ALMA.  

In 2019 alone, Rosewood donated 14,400 pieces of bread ad 18,600 rations of food and other products, together with BASMA and Red Cross. Hotel personnel visited four communities to provide direct support.

Alfredo Renteria, Director of Rosewood, spoke about their commitment to social responsibility. Aside from the donations of food, they have other community projects. One of them is an elementary school with 60 students, for which they will be building a perimeter wall and a multiple-use sports court. Furthermore, each of the participating first- level donors will sponsor a child through his or her elementary school years.

Francisco Garay

The director of the city’s Vinculación con ONG (Liaison with NGOs), told us: “We have been collaborating with BASMA and Congress since the beginning to help promote the law. We offered ideas and revised the proposals. BASMA has been very successful at creating rapid distribution of surplus food from banquets and restaurants. From our office we provide what is needed for the greatest benefit of the residents of San Miguel.”

CANIRAC

Sergio Spinolo, president of the Camara Nacional de la Industria Restaurantera y Alimentos Condimentados (National Chamber of Restaurant Industries and Seasonings), known as CANIRAC, spoke to Atención.

“At CANIRAC we provide BASMA with canned foods of the best quality, this is not waste. We do not work with food surplus. We need to bring in good quality products. We are working toward receiving donations of new products that can be used and distributed. We are here to contribute.”