The “socialist” locales are aimed at providing low-cost, high quality national foods, while still earning decent proﬁts. The restaurants are worker-run.
Ensuring access to affordable meals with good nutritional value, the Venezuelan government opened its 39th affordable restaurant nationally last Monday in the neighborhood of San Jose in the capital city of Caracas.
The new facility, along with other restaurants now operating around the South American country, will be serving primarily arepas, corn ﬂour patties stuffed with a variety of ingredients including cheese, meat, vegetables and egg.
Arepas represent the single most important food item of the Venezuelan diet.
According to Venezuelan Food Minister Carlos Osorio, San Jose’s new restaurant will be offering ﬁve hundred arepas daily to residents at a savings of up to 70 percent.
While the cost of an arepa ﬁlled with basic ingredients can reach as high as 25 bolivars ($5.81) in a private establishment, the price of the government operated restaurant will be 7.5 bolivars ($1.74).
Full lunches will also be offered to customers at a price of 20 bolivars ($4.65) while natural juices will come in at 3.5 bolivars ($.81) and espresso coffee at 1.5 and 3.5 bolivars ($.34 and $.81) for small and large sizes.
“A lunch on the street costs around 60 bolivars ($13.95) while here, I’m only going to spend 20 bolivars ($4.65). That’s a savings of more than 50 percent. This represents a blow to price speculation”, said Ivan Rosales a worker for the Venezuelan Food Producer and Distributor, PDVAL.
Government ofﬁcials report an investment of over 412 thousand bolivars ($95 thousand) in the new facility which anticipates serving more than six thousand consumers monthly.
Caracas resident Elsi Narvaez commented on the value of the government’s restaurants for the inhabitants of the city during the opening of a similar restaurant earlier last week.
“Between an arepa and a juice, you can spend up to 40 bolivars ($9.30). But here at the Venezuela Arepa Restaurant, you’ll spend 15 bolivars ($3.48). I left my house early to run some errands and I didn’t have time to eat breakfast at home. This place is great and I hope that they keep it like this”, she said.
The new restaurant in San Jose is part of a larger government plan to construct more than 150 establishments around the country by the end of the year, bringing the total number of Venezuelan Arepa Restaurants to 200.
“For the third trimester, we should be arriving at a total of 200 areperas, of which we already have 39 fully operational. This week, we’ll be inaugurating another 30”, informed Minister Osorio on Monday.
The minister also detailed that the national government estimates the sale of more than 10 million arepas in the state-owned facilities by the end of this year.
Formerly known as Socialist Arepa Restaurants, the principal motivation of the initiative is to ensure a balanced diet for all residents, eliminate price speculation common in the private sector, and guard against the hoarding of food products by intermediaries.
The majority of the ingredients for the restaurants will be provided by state-owned industries including PDVAL.
The corn ﬂour, vegetable oil, and cheese will all be supplied by a growing public food production and distribution network representing an integral part of the nation’s move away from foreign dependence and towards food sovereignty.
Over the years, this strategy has helped Venezuela to surpass United Nations nutritional standards with respect to caloric intake while at the same time drastically reducing malnutrition in the South American nation.
According to Venezuela’s National Nutritional Institute, daily caloric intake has increased from 2,200 to 2,800 in the ﬁrst 10 years of the Chavez government while malnutrition in the country has decreased by two-thirds.
For Osorio, these gains have been accompanied by a crucial new conceptualization of food and society in Venezuela.
“Our revolutionary government led by President Hugo Chavez is taking charge of satisfying the needs of the people and making sure that food is not seen as a commodity but rather as a product to fulﬁll the needs to the population”, the minister afﬁrmed.