Advancing Food Banks

As a Warehouse Grows, More Guatemalan Families Have Food on the Table

The expansion of Desarrollo en Movimiento’s warehouse in Guatemala City means they can recover more wholesome food and get it to those who need it most. 

Written by Alice Driver

At a warehouse in Guatemala City, a group gathers at dawn to load food kits into a truck as the sun rises. They are all volunteers, including Mirthala Reyes, 69, a cancer patient, united in the mission of the Desarrollo en Movimiento food bank: to nourish their fellow Guatemalans while reducing food loss and waste.

This morning’s shipment of 1,000 food kits — filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and staples like rice and beans — is destined for a group of widows and single mothers in El Rancho, a town of 8,000 about five hours from the capital on winding mountain roads.

In Guatemala, where 45 percent of the country faces food insecurity and half of all children face chronic malnutrition, Desarrollo en Movimiento strives not just to provide food but nutrition, including recipes and cooking classes for recipients. Between 2018 and 2022, Desarrollo en Movimiento donated over 13 million pounds (5.8 million kilograms) of food to low-income families and individuals.

“We take advantage of food that would be wasted or thrown away to improve nutrition and health,” said Juan Pablo Ruano, the director of Desarrollo en Movimiento.

The food bank relies partially on donations from farmers and companies like Walmart Mexico and Central America and Ducal to source fresh produce. And local farmers donate to the food bank as well; for example, lettuce, okra, or other vegetables and fruits that don’t meet the strict standards of supermarket shelves. Last year, they recovered 2,000 tons of fruits and vegetables from farms, which enabled them to serve 63,000 per month. It also means Desarrollo en Movimiento contributes to a more sustainable food system that addresses climate change by reducing food waste.

Through a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to The Global FoodBanking Network, Desarrollo en Movimiento has been able to put even more focus on improving nutrition for those facing hunger. That funding helped the food bank buy more racking and expand food storage capacity at its warehouse by 52 percent, which allows an extra 225 tons of food to be stored before being distributed to communities across the country. It also purchased another truck to transport farm surplus, expanding their capacity to recover fresh produce by 35 percent.

Providing Food and More to Communities

In the town of El Rancho, Clara Luz Ruano, 61, sits in the late morning sunlight beside her granddaughter Michelle, her long, dark hair braided, waiting to receive a food kit. Like many women present, Ruano says she is here for her grandchildren. Three of them live with her, and with food prices rising, she worried about providing nutritious food for them.

Near Ruano, Ruth López, 27, a mother of two, stood cradling her three-month-old daughter Catalina. “I want to make sure my kids eat healthy,” she said. Since her husband lost his job, they have had trouble making ends meet and hope the food kit could help keep the family nourished.

Inside her home, Nora Martiza Cruz Coronado, 51, opens the kit and places bags of rice, beans, cooking oil, fresh vegetables, and bananas on her table.

“I’m going to make meals for my grandchildren,” she said, standing barefoot on the dirt floor of her home, as chickens and geese walk in and out. Cruz Coronado, a street vendor who lives in El Rancho, is one of over 50,000 underserved Guatemalans to receive donations from Desarrollo en Movimiento in December 2023.

To make the most of the food kits, Sofia Aguilar, the nutritional and social management coordinator at Desarrollo en Movimiento, develops recipes like okra stew since many Guatemalans aren’t used to eating okra. Aguilar also develops popular recipes like chocolate cake made with bananas, teaching the recipients of donations how to make more nutritious versions of their favorite foods.

“Mothers bring their children [to our cooking classes], and they can try new foods and realize that they are delicious,” said Aguilar. “We want to create a workshop for the children to get them involved in food preparation.”

At her home in El Rancho, Cruz Coronado says she hopes to participate in the cooking and nutrition classes offered by Desarrollo en Movimiento so she can make the most out of every meal. She cares for her son Oscar, who was injured in a motorbike accident that broke his pelvis; her daughter-in-law Lesly; and her grandchildren Emma and Eduard.

“It has been hard because he is still recovering,” says Cruz Coronado of her son. She is currently the sole breadwinner in her house and times are tight. “I thank God because this helps us a lot,” she said of the food kit. “Prices keep rising, and I’m thankful for this food.”

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