In Peru Protest, Women Urge Action on Food Prices
May 1, 2008 - New York Times

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- More than 1,000 women protested outside Peru's Congress on Wednesday, banging empty pots and pans to demand that the government do more to counter rising food prices, which are squeezing the poor worldwide.

The women, some toting small children on their hips, run food kitchens, known as eating halls, for the poor.

The meals the eating halls serve are subsidized by the government, but the women say they are struggling to provide enough food and want the government to increase financial aid so they can cover their costs.

Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the eating halls each day in Peru, where about 12 million people, or 42 percent of the population, live in poverty.

The rising cost for basic foods sank President Alan García's approval rating to 26 percent this month, the lowest level since he took office in 2006. This month, weeks after cutting taxes on food imports, Mr. García started sending the army to hand out free bags of food in the poorest neighborhoods here in the capital.

"Food prices keep on rising, and the government doesn't pay attention to the eating halls," said María Bozeta, director of one of three associations that represent eating halls in Lima.

"The pot is empty, García!" the women chanted as they wound their way toward Congress in downtown Lima.