The ’’community pot,” is a phenomenon that’s spread across Peru in recent months as coronavirus quarantines and shutdowns have left millions of poor people with no way to feed their families.
Soup kitchens and community pots have become a symbol of the conundrum facing a region where most of the working population labors outside the formal economy.
Economic shutdowns have forced poor Peruvians, Argentines and tens of millions of others to fall back on community-based efforts unseen in large numbers since crises like Peru’s 1990s civil war or Argentina’s financial crash two decades ago.
“I barely have anything to eat at home,” Clara Arango, a single mother of two, she lost her job as a janitor when her employer closed his shopping mall in Lima’s wealthiest neighborhood due to the antivirus shutdown that began on March 16. said. ’’Here I have a community pot and I can pool my resources with my neighbors and we can support each other and work together.
In Peru, thousands of community pots are steaming at breakfast and lunch in neighborhoods at levels not seen since inflation topped 7,000% in 1990 in the middle of the civil war with Shining Path Maoist guerrillas. More than a third of Peru’s 32 million people have had to engage in some form of community cooking due to lack of money,
Without unemployment benefits or the ability to work from home, a cut-price bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, some lentil stew or noodles in tomato sauce for lunch, and leftovers for dinner aren’t proving enough to keep poor Latin Americans from leaving their homes each day to earn a living as construction workers, street vendors or other types of day laborers. The inability to keep people at home is proving a major factor in the spread of the coronavirus around the continent, where new cases and deaths are rising unchecked as an unbent curve of infection pushes intensive care wards to their limits.
Despite some of the strictest antivirus measures in the region, Peru has diagnosed 237,000 cases of coronavirus and counted 7,000 deaths, the highest number of cases per capita in the region and the second-highest per capita count of deaths.
At the same time, Peru is facing a 12% drop in gross domestic product this year, one of the worst recessions in the hemisphere, according to the World Bank. 2.3 million other Lima residents also lost their jobs by April, out of a working population of roughly 16 million nationwide. The figure is expected to leap again when May numbers are released.
Estéfany Aquiño, 11, who is helping her mother raise her 2-month-old sister after a cesarean section that left the woman unable to leave her house to look for food. Estéfany said the community pot is her only defense against a hunger that’s become a constant feature of life.
“Your stomach starts to hurt, to grumble, and then to talk to you,” the girl said.