By Lluis Lozano
Mexico City, Nov 11 (EFE).- Mexico’s food banks are fighting a daily battle to combat food waste estimated at 38 tons per minute nationwide – an amount sufficient to provide meals to more than 28 million undernourished people.
The World Bank, for its part, estimates that the annual value of wasted food in Mexico amounts to 491 billion pesos ($24.6 billion), or 4.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
To combat the problem, organizations like Mexico City-based food bank Alimento para Todos, a logistics operator in the capital borough of Iztapalapa that is the biggest in the Food Banks of Mexico (BAMX) network, are recovering food that otherwise would have been thrown away in the capital and its surrounding region.
Through its efforts, that food bank provides food assistance to more than 120,000 people per week.
Alimento para Todos maintains different warehouses near Central de Abasto – the world’s largest wholesale market – where it stores fruit, vegetables, beans, food cans and milk, as well as clothing and cleaning products.
Via collaborations with supermarkets and other companies, it obtains items those establishments are unable to sell for reasons such as faulty packaging but which are still suitable for consumption.
“If we attend to 120,000 (people), there are probably another (120,000 we’d find) by knocking on doors. The need rose by 40 percent with the pandemic, especially in Mexico City and the metropolitan area,” Diego Martinez, Alimento para Todos’ public relations coordinator, told Efe.
But although that food bank’s work reduces the nutritional shortfall of various communities in Mexico City and neighboring Mexico state that are unattended by government agencies, he said the problem runs much deeper.
The amount of food that is discarded could alleviate the problems of around 60-70 million Mexicans who are not suffering from food insecurity yet still live below the poverty line, Martinez said.
During Efe’s visit to one Alimentos para Todos warehouse, three young men – Jesus, Luis and Alejandro – filled their truck with boxes to take to a city in the central state of Mexico that is part of the Greater Mexico City urban area.
“It’s people who need it … because it’s a poor area and (the food aid) helps families in Chimalhuacan,” said 19-year-old Jesus, who has been delivering food from Alimento para Todos’ stocks for nearly a year.
Besides partnering with supermarkets, alliances with organizations like Fundacion Alsea – the foundation of Mexico City-based Alsea, the leading restaurant operator in Latin America and Europe – help Alimento para Todos achieve its objectives.
“This year we’ve collected around 33,000 kilograms (72,700 pounds) of food and benefited more than 1,700 organizations. In addition to a 10-million-peso ($500,000) donation to BAMX, not only for food but for its professionalization,” Ivonne Madrid, the director of that foundation whose focus is food security, told Efe.