© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A costumer counts money before buying tangerines in a green grocery store, as Argentines struggle amid rising inflation, in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 11, 2023. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

By Miguel Lo Bianco

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Anahí Robledo feeds 50 families each day at the community kitchen she runs in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, struggling with the chronic inflation that has thrown four in every ten people in the country into poverty.

Argentina is battling an economic crisis which could see inflation hit around 150% by the end of the year, one of the highest rates in the world.

Robledo said the soup kitchen she works at can’t keep up: it went from feeding 10 or 15 families to around 50 today.

“You can’t keep count of the dishes we have to make for that amount of people,” said Robledo, a 47-year-old domestic worker who volunteers on the side, as she kneaded bread.

“It makes me sad because nothing has changed and everything continues to get worse. I would like each family to have a plate of food on their table to eat with their children and not have to come to a soup kitchen,” she said.

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Argentina has long battled high inflation, currency weakness and indebtedness, but high global prices linked to the war in Ukraine and one of the country’s worst-ever droughts have hit its ability to stabilize its economy.

Argentina’s official statistics agency is set to release official inflation data for May later on Wednesday, with analysts predicting a monthly rise of 8.8%, even faster than the 8.4% jump a month earlier. The annual rate is already 109%.

To get the growing amount of food they need, Robledo goes to a large market on the outskirts of Buenos Aires to rummage through discarded fruit and vegetables and salvage what she can.

“We go to the wholesale market and from there we get the vegetables. When the boys come out to throw them away, we grab them, clean them, chop them and freeze them,” she said.

As in other soup kitchens in the country of 46 million people, many children come to get fed.

“Why is there such a need? It’s like something is failing, do you understand? We are worse off than before,” Robledo said as she served rice pudding to a girl in a cut-up plastic bottle.

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“How do you tell people when there’s nothing left for them?”

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