Feeding the hungry in Lebanon: FoodBlessed tackles food insecurity

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Since the Lebanese lira started to devalue and inflation grew, the price of food has been steadily rising.

“Lebanon’s current situation is creating new humanitarian needs and exacerbating current ones,” Maya Terro, co-founder of the Lebanese NGO FoodBlessed, told Al-Arabiya English.

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“With 60 percent unemployment rates in some neighborhoods, many are going hungry and are at risk of eviction. If Corona[virus] doesn’t get you first, sadly, either hunger or homelessness will,” she added.

The NGO helps to give food to those registered with the organization, with boxes of items given to each person. Each box has enough supplies to feed a family of four for around a month.

In 2020, it fed around 17,000 people, but Terro is anticipating numbers rising to above 20,000 this year, as the economic crisis continues to worsen.

People march during a demonstration marking one year since the start of nation-wide protests in Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)
People march during a demonstration marking one year since the start of nation-wide protests in Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)

The increasing prices of food is forcing many people to choose between going hungry or paying for other needs, such as rent or medicine.

One of them is Saleha Abdullah Khalif who fled Syria because of the war.

“I was affected a lot [by the situation],” the Syrian woman told Al-Arabiya English. “Before, I would cook a few times a week, but now, I can't cook at all. Oil is expensive. Most of the time, and on most days, I go to sleep without eating.”

Khalif explained that the knowledge that her two daughters will have food every night fills her with a greater sense of ease.

“FoodBlessed has helped me in a huge way and has helped with my daughters’ safety,” she said. “In truth, if it wasn't for them, my situation would be much more difficult.”

The relative security that this NGO provides is becoming increasingly challenging because of the worsening economic situation, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

FoodBlessed relies on both monetary and food donations to continue its operations. After the Beirut port explosion, it saw a significant increase in the amount of money donated. After a few months, though, the donations started to decrease.

“Ever since the Covid pandemic came to be, FoodBlessed has reverted from accepting in-kind donations of food items,” Terro stated. “This meant that we had to rely entirely on monetary donations to fund our food assistance packages and meals programs.”

Previously, the NGO could rely on people in Lebanon donating funds to their organization, but with the capital controls put in place by the banks, and the ever-worsening value of the lira, it is now relying on donations from abroad.

While many are already struggling, recent announcements that subsidies on some food items might be lifted, there is the strong possibility of forcing a bigger number of people into a situation where food insecurity becomes a reality.

Terro estimates that much of the population will spend a large part of their income on bread, a staple of Lebanese and Arab households, due to the price increase, should subsidies on wheat and flour be lifted.

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