SBC Life Articles

Food Deserts in the Slums of São Paulo

EDITOR’S NOTE: October 11, 2020, is Global Hunger Sunday on the SBC calendar.

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought Brazil’s economy to a screeching halt, the already impoverished were the ones most affected by the sudden loss of income.

Unable to beg at stoplights, get government subsidized assistance, or even sell wares at outdoor markets like they have been accustomed to, these individuals were left with no means of providing for their families.

One region, known for being a vast and crowded slum with over two hundred thousand occupants, was particularly devastated by the financial crisis. In this area, coronavirus-related deaths were recorded at a minimum of seven deaths a day—nearly six times the rate of China’s fatalities during this same period.

Send Relief heard about this community living hand-to-mouth and sprung into action.

Equipped with hundreds of food baskets and Bibles, teams were mobilized to help these families experience healing physically and spiritually—but God multiplied these efforts. Initially, this slum was the only neighborhood the teams were deployed to, but because of an increase in volunteer participation and many requests from other communities, Send Relief teams were able to reach five different neighborhoods in the poorest region of Brazil.

 “The work of distributing the food baskets has been the fundamental help in these communities,” said Maya*, a volunteer.

“Through the distribution, I’ve always seen gratitude in these people. Many of them don’t know how to express gratitude, but just looking in their faces [as they] demonstrate a happiness and hope that there is going to be food in their house, [I know they are]. And through the distribution of Bibles, God has also supplied the most important thing [for] their spiritual needs, and we will continue praying for these people to see that God is the Bread of Life.”

Since the beginning of these efforts, a prominent national Christian motorcycle club, Ministério Motociclistico Abençoados, has been an integral part of delivering baskets to families unable to travel to distribution sites.

“People came up to us and asked for Bibles while we were making deliveries, so we gave them out and prayed with them,” the club president said about his experience volunteering. “In another place, a young pregnant couple came up and asked for a Bible and prayer because they wanted their baby to serve God. In both cases, we made sure that they were introduced to a local pastor and church so they can grow in their knowledge of the Gospel.”

Send Relief teams requested the involvement of five local churches to begin building relationships with faith communities, and, through their participation, hundreds of Gospel presentations were conducted during the food and Bible distributions.

One church leader, Santiago*, shared, “[At] the distribution of the food, it was very gratifying to see these people so satisfied to receive these baskets. For me, it was an honor to know that we are working for Jesus. I want to thank the people who were involved in [healing] our community—thank you very much!”

Thousands of people in need were assisted during this project because of the generosity of Southern Baptists through Global Hunger Relief. On October 11, Global Hunger Sunday, churches and individuals can help more communities like this experience the tangible love of God through their gifts to GHR.

*Names have been changed for security.

    About the Author

  • Natalie Sarrett