The initiative of a group of residents of the favela of Heliópolis, in São Paulo, to distribute lunchboxes during the covid-19 pandemic turned today (18) into a gastronomy school, with capacity for more than 200 students.
The idea of feeding people in the community who were in need in the midst of the health crisis was carried out by volunteers from the favela who organized themselves into the Movimento Organizacional Vencer Educar e Realiza (Mover Helipa). At the height of the pandemic, they even distributed approximately 2,000 lunchboxes daily, produced under an overpass, in a precarious kitchen, with pans, equipment, utensils and donated food. The labor was provided by the volunteers themselves.
President of Mover Helipa, Renato Varjão- Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
“We saw the need for food to reach people. Some couldn’t leave the house, others didn’t even have anything to eat. And then we started making lunchboxes, under an overpass here, and that grew, the demand increased, people looking for it”, says the president of Mover Helipa, José Renato Mendes Varjão.
“The government is coming now. But it has always been in race, based on donation. In the kitchen, in the beginning, we had a small stove with four burners, a refrigerator in the corner, a space of about five square meters, precarious pans”.
Renato says that the intention was not simply to feed the population in need, but to train people to get out of that situation. “We wanted to start training people to enter the gastronomy job market, because we know that there is a lot of talent in the favela”.
The residents’ initiative caught the attention of former Special Secretary for Social Development at the Ministry of Citizenship, Robson Tuma, who began transforming it into a school kitchen project. Taken over by the current Ministry of Development and Social Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger, it was renamed Project for Income Generation Path of Social Transformation – Kitchen School, inaugurated today.
The school, built with 12 containers, is located in the Mackenzie Engineering School Road Complex – Estrada das Lágrimas, in Cidade Nova Heliópolis, in the south zone of São Paulo. It has an industrial kitchen, restaurant and space for training. So far, the ministry has spent R$ 2.5 million. The target audience is people who participate in the Single Registry (Cadúnico) of low-income families.
Minister of Social Development, Wellington Dias, at the inauguration of the project – Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
“Here is an integrated work. Regardless of any political dispute, the idea is to integrate the municipality, state, federal government and social entities, such as Mover Helipa. Resources are focused on the people who will teach the courses, on support so that interested people can have the conditions for locomotion, food, and support for the operation of the kitchen itself”, highlighted the Minister of Development and Social Assistance, Family and Combating Hunger, Wellington Dias, present at the school’s inauguration. According to him, the project will serve as an experience for similar programs to be implemented in other locations.
The school kitchen will continue to produce lunchboxes for the community, but now as part of the educational process. Vanilda da Silva will be one of the students who will participate in the first group. “I already helped in the kitchen of the project, I always gave the staff a boost. A lot of people lost their jobs in the pandemic, including me. Now, with the school, it will be a very good investment in our lives, it can improve our remuneration in the future”.