In Peru’s slums, chicken is off the menu as soup kitchens battle inflation

LIMA, April 13 (Reuters) – In the hilly slums of Peru’s capital Lima, soup kitchens are struggling to feed some of the Andean nation’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, cutting protein and loading up on carbohydrates, as food prices soar.

“The price increase is huge,” said Jenifer Mondalgo, president of the soup kitchen association in the Pamplona Alta slum. “The chicken we used to buy…is now inaccessible. For us, as soup kitchens, chicken has ceased to exist.”

Mondalgo said they had resorted to the market to obtain bones, skins or other loose remains so they could serve at least some animal protein.

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For years, soup kitchens offered lunch at 1 sol (27 cents), but now community leaders are forced to charge 1.5 soles.

While much of the world faces high inflation triggered by the Ukraine crisis, the stakes are highest in the South, where the poor have always sought to earn a living and could go hungry at any time.

The war has also caused a global fertilizer supply crisis, which directly affects food prices.

In Pamplona Alta, slum dwellers searched for food in garbage cans. The slums of Lima have long been a first stop for Peruvians leaving the Andes for the city in search of better opportunities.

Inflation in Peru is at its highest level in a quarter of a century, with price increases disproportionately affecting food. The price spike has already sparked nationwide protests that have prompted the government to find ways to cut costs.

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo has pledged to lower prices by scrapping the sales tax on basic foodstuffs, but he is still debating with Congress which items deserve the tax cut.

Peru also raised the minimum wage by 10% to 1,025 soles and offered vouchers to subsidize cooking gas for the most vulnerable.

“It used to be that things like vegetables and potatoes were cheap. Now they’re super expensive,” said Pamplona Alta resident Elena Rodriguez. “I do not know what to do.”

On Monday, a soup kitchen in Pamplona Alta served lentil rice, along with an increasingly rare dish: chicken soup, thanks to a bone donation at the market earlier in the day.

Vegetable oil jumped 50% last year, according to Peru’s national statistics agency. This forced poor Peruvians to find ways to help themselves, such as collecting leftover pork fat to use in other dishes.

“If soup kitchens ceased to exist, our lives would be terrible,” said Maria Sanchez, who spends nearly 200 soles a month at her local soup kitchen to feed her family of six.

“We wouldn’t know what to buy because everything is so expensive in the market.”

($1 = 3.7081 soles)

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Reporting by Daniel Becerril and Miguel Lo Bianco; Additional reporting and writing by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Richard Chang

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