Belo Horizonte is a city in Brazil with a metropolitan population of about 5 million. In 1993, the mayor and citizens of this city started a series of innovations that led to its designation by the United Nations as the city with the best quality of life in Latin America. In the book Hope's Edge, Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé tell the story of this remarkable transformation. Food a right of citizenship in Belo Horizonte. Food markets are on city-owned spots around the city.
For this advantage, the seller has to sell the fruits and vegetable at a price the city sets. In return, every weekend they have to drive produce-laden trucks to the poor neighborhoods outside of the city center, so everyone can get good produce.
The sellers can still make a good profit because the city charges almost nothing for the market location. Secondly, there is sheer volume of sales. There are no middlemen; sellers are linked directly with local producers.
The city's Green Basket program links hospitals, restaurants, and other big buyers directly to about 40 local organic growers. The city's agroecological centers supply seeds and educate about sustainable farming techniques. There are dozens of community gardens and school gardens. The right to good food means school lunches are provided using local, fresh produce
and few processed foods.
Within 10 years of these innovations, the infant mortality rate was reduced by 50%. Now the is working on housing and access in the poverty areas. Families are relocated from areas with high risk of floods and landslides. Paving of roads is done with 80% local workers, reducing unemployment. These improvements provide access to public transportation, police, and postal service. All of these innovations took place after the idea of "charity" was deemed obsolete.
--Submitted by Marcia Leise