Food Vouchers Bring Relief to Salvadoran Families Slammed by Multiple Crises

Salvadoran families are still recovering from the impact of Coffee Rust –a fungus which reduces crop yields and quality—and the severe drought in 2014 that hit Central America. In late 2014, WFP in El Salvador began voucher distributions, assisting 11,500 families. In the past, food distributions were limited to rations of maize, beans and rice, but today the new vouchers allow families to choose the food they prefer to eat.

SAN SALVADOR. –The Villarreal family is among the 11,500 families receiving vouchers to help them mitigate the impact of a region wide drought and Coffee Rust. Santos Ignacio Villarreal expressed that 2014 was a very tough year for his family.

Santos, his wife and three daughters grow maize on a family lot for their consumption, additionally he works as a day labour on local plantations to help pay for other expenses. The severe drought in El Salvador in 2014 prevented him from planting and harvesting. Santos normally collected eight quintals of maize, enough food reserves to feed his family until the next harvest. The drought also destroyed local plantations, leaving Santos without the extra income to put food on the table.

More than Just Vouchers
In late 2014, WFP in El Salvador started implementing a food assistance modality through voucher transfers which were distributed to the beneficiaries of the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) and the project PROGRESANDO El Salvador, which assist families affected by the coffee rust and drought in 33 municipalities nationwide.

This new food assistance modality promotes diversity by giving beneficiaries the ability to choose the food they want to eat at home. Which in most of these households has been limited to the consumption of maize, beans and rice.

A Grocery List, Nutrition Training and Rebuilding Livelihoods
With a grocery list drafted the night before, Santos and his family begin their supermarket tour to find what they need. His wife said she has participated in a training about managing family finances and good eating habits, which has helped them to properly use the voucher and prioritize the food they have decided to buy.

Santos’ daughters are happy to be part of this experience. They know that when they get home, they will eat a meal prepared with food bought on the same day and with ingredients they themselves helped to choose.

The vouchers have helped the Villarreal family rebuild their livelihoods. After attending the trainings, Santos has begun to construct a home garden, and he has already planted radishes, cilantro, eggplant and onions. “With the knowledge I have gained, I can grow little by little my garden to generate income and bring food home for my family,” he said.