Belo Horizonte food

Posted on November, 04 2015

Pioneer in food security and resilience

Pioneer in food security and resilience

Belo Horizonte has become known worldwide as "the city that ended hunger". In 1993, it launched a food security program that almost eliminated hunger, reduced poverty, created price stability, generated rural sustainability and a thriving urban agriculture sector. The reforms also addressed a range of other social issues, including resilience of poor neighborhoods to flooding and landslides, and urban and environmental renewal in slums.

Belo Horizonte was awarded the title Global Earth Hour Capital in Earth Hour City Challenge 2015
Keywords: food security, urban farming, poverty, resilience, participatory budgeting

For the second year in a row, Belo Horizonte was chosen by WWF as Brazil´s National Earth Hour Capital in 2015. As with many other sustainability success stories – Freiburg, Vancouver, Copenhagen – green development in Belo Horizonte has its origins in a grass-roots movement that in the 1990s kick started democratic and social programs in the city. In 1993, following the rise of the Brazilian Movement for Ethics in Politics and Citizenship Action against Hunger, Poverty and for Life, the new mayor of Belo Horizonte, Patrus Ananias, declared that food was a right of citizenship and it was the duty of the government to guarantee this right. The city then launched "the world’s most comprehensive policy that tackles hunger immediately and secures a healthy food supply for the future” in the words of the World Future Council, which in 2009 endowed Belo Horizonte with the Future Policy Award.

The Food Security Program

Here are some highlights of the Food Security Program:

  • The city subsidizes food sales in certain popular restaurants serving nutritious food to all at low prices, and catering directly to poor neighborhoods through food vans.
  • The city supplies food directly to public schools and daycare centers, health clinics, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other charitable institutions, with a special program for nutritious supplements to families, whose children show signs of malnutrition. The city has also created food banks to collect and distribute excess fresh fruit and vegetables from markets and stores.
  • Food markets are regulated and the city has  introduced food outlets, which are licensed to private operators under the agreement that a selection of 25 quality-controlled products are sold at set prices – about 20–50 % below market price. The city has facilitated direct trade between local producers and consumers at fixed sale points throughout the city with regulated quality and prices. It has also organized dozens of farmers markets, and keeps the public informed on the lowest prices of a list of 45 basic household items.
  • The city´s support of urban agriculture has led to the establishment of over a hundred community and school gardens. 
Success and replication
As a result of these policies (which cost the city less than 2% of its budget) Belo Horizonte has almost eliminated hunger, reduced poverty, created price stability, and generated rural sustainability and a thriving urban and local agriculture sector (see also Lubumbashi). Within 10 years of the launch of the program, child mortality was reduced by 60%, child hospitalization for malnutrition by 75% and poverty by 25%, while 700,000 farmers had access to credit for the first time in their lives, leading Belo Horizonte to become known as "the city that ended hunger."

In 2003, the program became the blueprint for then Brazilian President Lula da Silva´s nationwide Zero Hunger Program, under the direction of Patrus Ananias as Minister for Social Development and the Fight against Hunger. Belo Horizonte´s own program continues to be developed further and has, for example included a revision in 2010 of the city’s land use plan to incorporate urban agriculture as a non-residential land use, on a par with commerce, services and industry.

Participatory government and resilience

The 1993 reforms also initiated a range of democratization programs, including participatory budgeting, public schools and kindergartens, urban and environmental renewal in slums and resilience efforts (see also Chengdu). The Structural Program for Dangerous Areas (PEAR) was set up in 1993 and has since then coordinated preventive actions in geologically dangerous areas, including repair, maintenance construction and relocation of people to safer urban settlements. Belo Horizonte´s main natural challenges are its hilly terrain and 700 km of streams, which makes it prone to flooding and landslides. In 2011, the Risk Areas Executive Group (GEAR) was set up to coordinate emergency actions during the rainy season. According to the city, these efforts have protected millions of people, and since 2003, no one has died in landslides, and very few in flooding incidents. In 2013, Belo Horizonte was awarded the United Nations Sasakawa Award for disaster risk reduction.



Belo Horizonte Municipal Government, “Belo Horizonte Sustainable City”,

World Future Council, “Celebrating the Belo Horizonte Food Security Programme”,

World Future Council,, “Belo Horizonte´s Food Security Policy”,

Frances Moore Lappé, “Belo Horizonte, Brazil: The city that ended hunger”,

carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: City of Belo Horizonte,

FAO, “Growing Greener Cities”, “Belo Horizonte”,

UNISDR, “The Sasakawa Award – City Council of Belo Horizonte, Brazil”,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

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