09 April 2013

Hungry Planet - Cuba

The Costa family, living in Havana, Cuba, and their one week's worth of food (from the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio).

Their PICTURE is here.

A bit about the country first. According to Wikipedia:
  • Like some other Communist and post-Communist states following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba took limited free market-oriented measures to alleviate severe shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. These steps included allowing some self-employment in certain retail and light manufacturing sectors, the legalization of the use of the US dollar in business, and the encouragement of tourism. Cuba has developed a unique urban farm system (the organop├│nicos) to compensate for the end of food imports from the Soviet Union. In recent years, Cuba has rolled back some of the market oriented measures undertaken in the 1990s. In 2004 Cuban officials publicly backed the Euro as a "global counter-balance to the US dollar", and eliminated U.S. currency from circulation in its stores and businesses.
  • According to the United Nations, Cuba was the only nation in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature's definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.
More about sustainability in Cuba: Why Cuba's Sustainability is Not an Accident.

Now, about the food consumed by this family in one week (14 kg per person):
  • 29% starches (potato, rice, pasta, cormeal, etc.)
  •   3% sweet foods (cakes, sugar)
  • 14% dairy (yoghurt, cheese)
  •   6% meat, fish, eggs
  • 37% fruits (watermelon, bananas, papayas, guava, etc.)
  • 11% vegetables (cabbage, onion, lettuce, cucumbers, etc.)
Beverages (3.5 litres per person, per week)
  • 3 litres of Cola 
  • 0.5 litre of alcoholic drinks
"Since 1962, the Cuban government has issued every household a libreta, a ration book that entitles the family to purchase set quantities of food for next to nothing in the nation's thousands of state-run [stores]."
Today the libreta provides a third to a half of a typical family's food; Cubans must obtain the rest from the open agricultural markets, which Castro legalized in 1994 in another response to the fall of Communism worldwide. To Cubans, who typically make 200-300 pesos (8-12 USD) a month, these are ruinously expensive.
Despite the flaws in the system, very few people go hungry [...]."
Relatives living overseas often send money to their families living in Cuba. The government takes 10% as tax on these amounts.

Facts about the country (from the book):
  • Life expectancy: male 75, female 79 years
  • Undernourished population: 11%
  • Overweight population: male 55%, female 57%
  • Obese population: male 12%, female 21%
  • Population age 20 years and older with diabetes: 6%
  • Available supply of sugar and sweeteners per person per year: 62kg
  • McDonald's restaurant: 1 (on the US base at Guantanamo).
Havana (photo by Dieter Muller)

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