Inside Venezuela: Starved Families Scavenge for Food in Garbage-Covered Streets

In this June 2, 2016 photo, people search a garbage bag for vegetables and fruit outside a supermarket in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Unemployed people picking through food tossed out by nearby shops are frequently joined by small business owners, college students and pensioners, people who consider themselves middle class. Living standards have long ago been pulverized by triple-digit inflation and food shortages, pushing some to turn to urban farming to get vegetables back into their diets. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
CARACAS, Venezuela – Driving through the streets of Caracas, it is impossible not to notice the ubiquitous government propaganda on the sides of buildings and scores of armed police. Even harder to avoid, however, is the garbage. On almost every street corner, stacks of waste can be seen piled up, some of it in black bags, but other items in limbo such as water bottles, diapers and occasionally food waste. Around almost every pile of garbage, a crowd had formed, rifling through it for scraps to eat. From schoolchildren to the elderly, even to those in work uniform, many Venezuelans are resorting to scavaging just to survive. A recent report found that over 15 percent of people scavenge as a means of survival. Those who eat what they find have developed the skill of finding edible bits of food where they can. In an interview with Colombia’s El Tiempo, for example, one woman noted that some neighborhoods are known for having the “good” garbage – the kind with food in it that can be recooked and consumed, as opposed to non-food waste. A woman and her teenage daughter, who can be seen wearing a school backpack, search for food in garbage bags.   Huge amounts of waste are