In early 2020, the Franciscan Missions approved a grant request from the Franciscan Solidarity Association (SEFRAS) in Rio de Janeiro. SEFRAS is a humanitarian organization that fights every day to combat hunger, violations of rights and the economic and social exclusion of extremely vulnerable populations. The request for funding food relief efforts, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, was especially urgent in the city of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Palo. From June-2020 to July-2022, over 300,000 meals were distributed, in addition to hygiene kits, blankets and social assistance/referrals. In Sao Paulo, SEFRAS along with other partners and donors, served over 5,000 meals a day to homeless people that had lost their livelihoods.

This reality is still present among homeless people in these urban areas. Recent research in Brazil has shown that more than 1/3 of the population lives with food insecurity*. They do not have enough food in quantity and quality, and many starve. SEFRAS intends to implement a continuous service for this population in both Rio and Sao Paulo.

In 2022, the Franciscan Province Imaculada Conceição do Brasil sent a grant request to renovate an existing building, acquire additional equipment, furniture and utensils to expand the SEFRAS kitchen and cafeteria service area. The project was completed in late December of 2022, and SEFRAS serves over 1,200 meals a day at two locations.

This stunning step backwards has occurred in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic is not solely to blame. An economic crisis, lack of agrarian reform, inflationary effects on the cost of food, and a systematic dismantling of public policy to assist poor families have combined to make a bad situation worse. In Brazil, already one of the most unequal countries in the world, that has meant that in the past two years an additional 14 million people have found themselves dealing with hunger on a daily basis.

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