HUFFINGTON POST

Venezuelans Struggle To Keep Fridges Stocked As Economy Suffers

"It makes a person want to cry."
High prices prices and ongoing product shortages in Venezuela have left many people struggling to put regular food
High prices prices and ongoing product shortages in Venezuela have left many people struggling to put regular food on their tables and maintain a balanced diet.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's soaring prices and chronic shortages have left 65-year-old homemaker Alida Gonzalez struggling to put meals on the table.

She and her four family members in the Caracas slum of Petare now routinely skip one meal per day and increasingly rely on starches to make up for proteins that are too expensive or simply unavailable.

"With the money we used to spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner, we can now buy only breakfast, and not a very good one," said Gonzalez in her home, which on a recent day contained just half a kilo of chicken (about a pound), four plantains, some cooking oil, a small packet of rice, and a mango.

The family did not know when they would be able to buy more.

Recession and a dysfunctional state-run economy are forcing many in the South American OPEC country of 30 million to reduce consumption and eat less-balanced meals.

In a recent survey by researchers from three major universities often critical of the government, 87 percent of the respondents said their income was insufficient to purchase food.

The study of nearly 1,500 families found rising percentages of carbohydrates in diets, and found that 12 percent of those interviewed do not eat three meals a day.

Amid a severe recession and dysfunctional state-run economy, poorer families say they are sometimes skipping meals. This comb
Amid a severe recession and dysfunctional state-run economy, poorer families say they are sometimes skipping meals. This combination photo shows the contents of people's fridges in Caracas, Venezuela in April 2016.

Government supporters have long pointed proudly to the improvement in eating under late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who used oil income to subsidize food for the poor during his 14-year rule and won United Nations plaudits for it.

But President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's successor, has faced a collapse in the price of oil, which provides almost all foreign income. He further has blamed an opposition-led "economic war," though critics deride that as an excuse.

Either way, Venezuelans are tired and cross.

A minimum wage is now only around 20 percent of the cost of feeding a family of five, according to one monitoring group. Lines snake around state supermarkets from before dawn.

"You have to get into these never ending lines - all day, five in the morning until three in the afternoon - to see if you get a couple of little bags of flour or some butter," said taxi driver Jhonny Mendez, 58.

"It makes a person want to cry."

Natalia Guerra, 45, lives in a small home in Petare with eight relatives, only one of whom has a significant salary.

She remembers buying milk for her own kids but now cannot find any for her grandchildren. "We're a big family, and it's constantly getting harder for us to eat," she said. 

Illustrating the magnitude of the crisis, Carlos Garcia Rawlins photographed several families and the food they had stocked at their home. 

  • Venezuela's sky-rocketing prices and chronic product shortages have left many struggling to put regular food on their tables
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    Venezuela's sky-rocketing prices and chronic product shortages have left many struggling to put regular food on their tables and maintain a balanced diet. Yunni Perez (R) sits next to her relatives above a photo of the food they have at their home in Caracas, Venezuela on April 22, 2016.
  • "We eat today, but we do not know what we will eat tomorrow. We are bad, I never thought it would come to this," Francis
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "We eat today, but we do not know what we will eat tomorrow. We are bad, I never thought it would come to this," Francisca Landaeta (R) said.
  • "We are eating badly. For example, if we have corn flour, we eat arepas all day. If you have the money you can't find the foo
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "We are eating badly. For example, if we have corn flour, we eat arepas all day. If you have the money you can't find the foods and if you find you them you do not have enough money," Rosa Elaisa Landaez (back) said.
  • "We are eating less, because we have been limiting ourselves. We used to keep the refrigerator full, but now is no longer so,
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "We are eating less, because we have been limiting ourselves. We used to keep the refrigerator full, but now is no longer so," said Maria de Marquez.
  • "I breakfast on either an arepa or a tamale, to eat, at least two times a day," Mirella Rivero said.
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "I breakfast on either an arepa or a tamale, to eat, at least two times a day," Mirella Rivero said.
  • "With the money we used to spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner, we can now buy only breakfast - and not a very good one," Al
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "With the money we used to spend on breakfast, lunch and dinner, we can now buy only breakfast - and not a very good one," Alida Gonzalez (second from right) said.
  • "We are eating in a bad way, we can not eat a balanced way. If we had lunch, not dinner and if we had dinner, not breakfast,"
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "We are eating in a bad way, we can not eat a balanced way. If we had lunch, not dinner and if we had dinner, not breakfast," Duglas Sanchez said.
  • "Before we were able to buy food for 15 days, now only we can cover our food needs for the day," Romulo Bonalde said.
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "Before we were able to buy food for 15 days, now only we can cover our food needs for the day," Romulo Bonalde said.
  • "Before, you could buy whatever you needed at the time, now you only can buy what they sell to you," Ciliberto Paez said.
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/ Reuters
    "Before, you could buy whatever you needed at the time, now you only can buy what they sell to you," Ciliberto Paez said.
  • "Now eating is a luxury, before we could earn some money and buy clothes or something, now everything goes on food," Yaneidy
    Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
    "Now eating is a luxury, before we could earn some money and buy clothes or something, now everything goes on food," Yaneidy Guzman said, standing with her daughters.
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