Record number of Brazilians cannot afford to eat properly, study shows
Many Brazilians are suffering from food insecurity, despite the country’s abundant agricultural output. In this context, FGV Social recently mapped data about this subject, tracking changes during the pandemic.
According to Marcelo Neri, the director of FGV Social and the study’s leader, the main results included a sharp increase in food insecurity during the pandemic in Brazil, especially among women. “This is the first time that Brazil has exceeded the global average. Between 2019 and 2021, food insecurity rose four times more in Brazil than in the world as a whole,” he says.
The study looked at data in the Gallup World Poll. This allowed annual comparisons between 160 countries going back to 2006, making it possible to measure longer-term differences in food insecurity between Brazil and the world as a whole, as well as their contributing factors such as income, education, gender and age.
Hunger during the pandemic
The proportion of Brazilians unable to afford to feed themselves or their family at some moment in the previous 12 months rose from 30% in 2019 to 36% in 2021 – an all-time high since records began in 2006. This was the first time since 2006 that food insecurity was worse in Brazil than the global average.
Moreover, during the pandemic, food insecurity rose 4.48 percentage points in Brazil – four times more than the average increase recorded in 120 other countries. This suggests the relative ineffectiveness of measures taken by the Brazilian authorities.
“Looking at the causes of this increase, we can see a strong link with poverty. According to our study, poor people are increasingly suffering from hunger. In the last 12 months, three-quarters of poor Brazilians reported experiencing food insecurity,” Neri says.
During the pandemic, food insecurity increased 22 percentage points among Brazil’s 20% poorest people, from 53% in 2019 to 75% in 2021. On the other hand, among the wealthiest 20%, food insecurity fell three percentage points, from 10% to 7%.
Growing hunger among women
During the pandemic, food insecurity remained roughly the same among men, but rose from 33% to 47% among women. As a result, the food insecurity gender difference in 2021 was six times higher in Brazil than in the world as a whole.
Brazilian women’s high rate of food insecurity is particularly concerning, since women tend to be children’s primary caregivers, especially in Brazil. This will have consequences for the country’s future, given that childhood malnutrition leaves lifelong physical and mental scars.
The ranking of 10 countries with the highest rate of food insecurity in 2021 was led by African countries, where the average rate of food insecurity was similar to the rate among poor Brazilians. The lowest food insecurity rate, 5%, was in Sweden. That isn’t far below the 7% food insecurity rate observed among Brazil’s 20% wealthiest people.
Comparing the same types of people over time, based on econometric models and almost 20 million interviews, the chance of experiencing food insecurity rose 63.5% in the world between 2006 and 2018. Food insecurity was higher than Brazil’s level in 109 countries, lower in 48 countries and the same in eight countries. Before the pandemic, Brazil was below the international norm, adjusted for its income level. This situation changed during the pandemic.
To see the complete study, click here.
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