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Hunger affects 10.3 million Brazilians while 44% of rural homes lack food security

The conclusions are based on data gathered from 2017-2018 in 58,000 homes throughout the country

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | Fortaleza (CE) |
Only 43% of households in the north and 49,7% of those in the northeast had full unimpeded access to food - Tony Winston/Agência Brasília

Hunger is affecting 10.3 million people in Brazil, 7.7 million of them being residents of urban areas and 2.6 million people living in the countryside. This is according to data from the first leg of the Family Budgetary Research (POF), published on Thursday, September 17th, by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

Furthermore, according to IBGE 4.6% of Brazilian homes, the equivalent of 3.1 million households, are experiencing severe food insecurity, a condition in which people relate not eating at all. Hunger has increased 43.7% over the past 5 years.

The index measures the amount of restrictions Brazilians face in order to access food, and was measured based on information gathered from June 2017 to July 2018, in almost 58 thousand homes throughout the country.

In a broader sense, when speaking of the lack of food security, the situation in the country has gotten worse, after having greatly improved along the last few decades. For example, in 2004, the percentage of households that lived with some sort of food insecurity was 35%.

In 2009 this level fell to 30%, and was again reduced in 2013, when it fell to 23%. Currently, based on the data gathered between 2017 and 2018 by IBGE, 37% of Brazilian families deal with food insecurity to some degree.

Hunger in the countryside

The research shows that almost half (44%) of rural families in Brazil live with a lack of food security.

IBGE classifies food insecurity as mild, moderate or severe. The first type is identified when people relate concerns about acquiring food in the future, when there is already a decline in the quality of food consumed in the present, which leads to families having to change their eating habits just to maintain the bare minimum needed to get by.

Moderate food insecurity is characterized by restrictive food portions, while cases are considered severe when there is no actual access to food, and people end up not eating at all.

In the case of rural areas, 7.1% of the population is facing severe food insecurity according to the data collected. This is three percentage points higher than what is observed in urban areas, where the figure is 4.1%.

In terms of the different regions of the country, only 43% of households in the north and 49,7% of those in the northeast had full unimpeded access to food. In the case of the latter, the northeastern region possesses 1.3 out of the 3.1 million homes facing a severe lack of food security nationwide.


Though the information published this past Thursday (17th) does not pertain to the current year, the statistics relate to some current problems highlighted by experts and civil society groups.

Among them, is the struggle for the approval of Law 735/2020, a bill that allocated an emergency assistance package to family farmers during pandemic, and had many of its key points vetoed by president Jair Bolsonaro back in August.

For example, the head of the executive branch nixed a provision that provided emergency payments of around 125U$ over 5 months to small farmers, which increased food insecurity in rural areas as the coronavirus spread through the countryside. Bolsonaro alleges that budgetary constraints impeded the implementation of the measure.

Gender and race

The figures are very interesting when looked at from the perspective of race and gender. While more males live in dwellings marred by the lack of food security (61.4% of residents), women are more often the heads of these households (51.9% of the time).

When it comes to race, homes headed by mixed race individuals represented only 35% of those with full food security, while representing more than 50% of those experiencing all levels of food insecurity – 50.7% of mild, 56.6% of moderate and 58.1% of severe cases.

The reality of households headed by black persons is even grimmer, they represent 15.8% of residences dealing with severe food insecurity, while only representing 10% of those that experience complete food security.

Edited by: Leandro Melito