Government acknowledges it has expiring food in storages, tasks Army to distribute

The Human Capital Ministry fired an official who allegedly did not check that the products were close to expiration date

The Human Capital Ministry announced that the Army would distribute 5,000 tonnes of food sitting in government warehouses, a week after announcing it would not deliver them to soup kitchens. No details have been provided regarding where the food will be taken.

A story by the El Destape news website revealed the 5,000 tonnes of food and warned that some of the food was close to its expiration date. Government spokespersons denied this.

However, ministry head Sandra Pettovello published a communiqué on Thursday saying that, based on information they had received regarding the “condition and expiration dates of certain products” in the warehouses, they had decided to task the Army with delivering products that were close to expiration.

Asked about who would receive the food, a spokesperson for the ministry said they “did not know that detail.”

The communiqué also said that the ministry would “limit the powers” of the employees who were responsible for monitoring the food’s conditions, adding that they engaged in “poor performance of their duties” for failing to control stock and expiration dates. 

A spokesperson for the ministry told the Herald that Pablo de la Torre, head of the ministry’s  Childhood, Adolescence, and Family Secretary, was fired for not checking on the foodstuffs’ expiration dates.

Last week, the Argentine Catholic University’s Observatory of Social Debt published a report stating that 55% of Argentines were poor and 18% were destitute during the first quarter of 2024. Since it took office, the government has not been delivering food to most soup kitchens. Social movements that oppose Milei’s administration run most soup kitchens, and their leaders claim that the decision to discontinue aid is an attack on them.

A court battle over food 

The government’s decision to withhold the food in warehouses was taken to court by Patria Grande social leader and former presidential candidate Juan Grabois, who filed a complaint against Pettovello. A judge gave the order to hand it over but later also accepted the government’s appeal.

The ministry had offered different justifications for not doing so — that most soup kitchens handled by social movements were not real; that the food was to be saved to be used for emergencies, and that the stash consisted mostly of “poor-quality yerba mate.” 

“We said there was food and there was food. We said it was going to expire, and it was going to expire. We said there was non-compliance and there was non-compliance. Pettovello has now accepted all of this,” Grabois said on X.

“There is hunger and they are not delivering food! Common sense, people. Get off your asses and figure this out. It’s not ideological, it’s human,” he added.

Last week, President Javier Milei rejected the fact that there are people in the country who don’t make ends meet. “If people did not make ends meet, they would be dying in the street and that is [not happening,” he said.

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