Sao Paulo’s Mayor to Feed City’s Poor With ‘Dog Food’

October 20, 2017 Updated: October 20, 2017

The mayor of Brazil’s capital is promoting the idea that dry pellets, popularly referred to as “dog food,” are the answer to the country’s hunger crisis.

The pellets, called farinata, are made of collected food waste that is on the verge of going bad. Sao Paulo’s mayor presented farinata at a press conference in hopes of gaining wider acceptance.

Different forms of the farinata can be eaten differently. In some cases it can be eaten on its own, and looks similar to popcorn. In others forms, it can be added to supplement foods like spaghetti or cake, according to AFP.

Rosana Perrotti, a representative for Plataforma Sinergia, said converting food to farinata extends its shelf life by at least two years. It also aids the mayor’s goals of curbing food waste. Farinata was already authorized by Mayor Joao Doria to feed schoolchildren at some schools in the city.

“Starting in October, we will have a gradual roll-out… to offer it to people who are hungry,” Doria said.

The idea that such a strange substance would be used to feed people has caused a public outcry. Concerns linger over the nutritional benefits of the pellets and the lack of transparency in its production. The Region Council on Nutrition is pushing for further study on farinata before its consumption becomes more widespread. The council hopes the mayor would look at alternatives. They said farinata “flew in the face of advances made in recent years in the field of food security.”

Prosecutors have opened an inquiry to find out more about farinata’s nutritional value.

“It is not an accusation, but it is a procedure we need to do so we can understand what these pellets are,” Prosecutor Jose Carlos Bonilha said to AP. “We need forensics to tell us whether this actually has nutritious value or not. If we see that is not the case, we will open a suit.”

The mayor is hoping that the discussion on farinata can be kept apolitical and looked at objectively. About 1.5 million people lack sufficient food in Sao Paulo and 7.2 million people lack food across Brazil as a whole, according to 2013 study by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics

“When the city presented the pellets, they said it was a good practise … but no one ever thought it would replace food,” said Vivian Zollar, the council’s spokeswoman.

But the company that produces farinata has already distributed it to three humanitarian organizations, and plans to use it to feed Venezuelans fleeing into Brazil as Venezuela’s government continues to crumble.