March 6, 2017
“This is not a dream, it is a reality”, That´s written down on the menu exhibited in the cafeteria attached to the family care system (SAF by its acronym in Spanish) in Pueblo Griffo, Cienfuegos.
Many retired, housewives or disabled whose income is not enough to have a balanced diet find respite in the SAF, through which over 2300 people are benefitted in 69 facilities in Cienfuegos. The food is provided for only one peso at lunch and another at dinner time.
Specialist from the Trade and Catering Business Group in the territory Ismary Valdés Fernández explained that the service is available in all localities, where the capital municipality stands out with almost half of the registered consumers.
“That figure is revised by social workers every three months. There are retired and disabled, underweight pregnant women living away from maternity homes, or even entired families with low income, all of them protected by Resolution 40 of the Domestic Trade Ministry”,Valdés Fernández said.
Speaking about supply
The agriculture and livestock entities, meat companies, dairy product and fishing companies are among those in charge of the stable food supply for SAF dining halls.
“We have no problems with the supply; there are, however, difficulties in the supply of fruits and vegetables, according to the season of the year”, Valdés Fernández said. And it seems that´s one of those periods. None of the facilities visited had such fruits or vegetables, which play a key role in the old age nutrition.
Who is in charge of the supply of fruits and vegetables? Is it too much effort for the suppliers to guarantee these products which are offered regularly by street vendors, still in some state-run markets?
A few months ago, Catering Manager of the Domestic Trade Ministry (MINCIN) Mercedes Fontanella Lara told JR that they should receive the fruits available in agriculture.
The other products destined for the program are run from the Ministry of Economy and Planning, and are different from the rest alloted to catering, so that its compliance can be known.
In Havana, the benefits and alimonies of SAF consumers are similar to those in Cienfuegos. Another topic which affects the quality of the food is the lack of condiments.
After a brief tour around some localities of Cienfuegos, Havana and Pinar del Río, the executives and heads of brigade had a common complaint: the refrigeration units.
SAF administrators Julio César Castillo and Juan Echemendía in Havana said that the existing capacity is poor to preserve some kind of food. In Julio César´s facility the situation is even worse, since the only icebox they had broke down some time ago.
Belkis Blanco Hernández from the cafeteria in Pueblo Griffo, the largest of Cienfuegos, with capacity for 88 people, also regrets the problems caused by the lack of refrigeration, saying that it is insufficient to preserve the food supplied, especially meat and dairy products.
Likewise, the poor state of the ovens threatens the quality of the service in these cafeterias.
Eating alone better?
Jesús Alfonso Vera is a widower and lives in Cienfuegos near Cuba Libre cafeteria, he recognized that his retirement pension is not enough admitting that he has found here the best way to eat.
Although an important restoration plan is underway in some Cuban municipalities, many of these facilities are not as comfortable as expected, the consumers prefer to return home with lunch and dinner in pots and eat alone.
With the aim of reverting the deterioration in some facilities, a restoration strategy is being implemented in some SAF centers. Photo: Abel Rojas Barallobre
It would be great that all the consumers could eat in the facilities, while socializing with the rest of the consumers. Although the conditions have improved these facilities have become a place where the consumers go for food and that´s it!
Despite all this, SAF facilities go beyond their role as cafeterias, since some people decide to spend the whole day in these places playing table games like domino, or watching TV.
In addition, special activities take place regularly in these centers, like birthdays and the celebration of special festivities like July 26, New Year´s Eve or mother´s and father´s day, with better and more varied offers.
A Look to Pinar del Rio
Pinar del Rio has 84 SAF facilities and more than 1,800 registered consumers in this program. The capital municipality has 11 centers and more than 550 people.
In La Pelota center located in downtown Pinar del Rio and used as a cafeteria, the situation is favorable from the material and higienic viewpoint, which has given way to positive opinions among the consumers.
Although it is located in one of the most frequented intersections of Pinar del Rio city, the place remains clean and easy, it has good illumination and the oven is repaired, with a new pressure cooker, liquefied gas and the plates and silverware are unblemished. The bathrooms were equally repaired, as well as the kitchen ceiling, which was previously leaking.
The director and the rest of the workers said that the People´s Power delegate, the nurse and the social worker frequently visit the center, as well as the sanitation staff, the catering managing staff and representative from the Administration Council.
In October 2016 the Subdivision for Prevention and Assistance of Social Work tabled a proposal for the broadening of these facilities based on the aging population phenomenon.
A study was carried out in every municipality to identify the people who needed the benefit, but it has not materialized. Next March 8th a new facility will be opened in the provincial capital. The capacity was enlarged from 20 to 100 consumers.
The system should add 25 new facilities in the entire province, which will benefit around other 330 people.
In the recent years efforts has mounted for favoring the family care system, although there are territories and facilities which are devoid of the appropriate conditions to elaborate food.
SAF, in its mission of providing food for a sector of the population with low income or other social problems, is currently one of the noblest and human projects of the Cuban Revolution.
Watching over its proper development and the fixed destination of every food will contribute to the endeavor for having a fairer and healthier society for all.
Translated by ESTI