Living on ration card isn’t easy, but Cubans use ingenuity and organization to feed families

By ANITA SNOW – Associated Press – July 2, 2007

HAVANA (AP) _ No one on this communist-run island dies from starvation, but every month Cubans on the “universal ration” must use ingenuity and organization skills to ensure everyone gets enough to eat.

For 30 days, I lived on a similar program. I spent less than US$17 (euro12.50) for a month’s sustenance, dropped nine pounds (four kilograms) and learned _ like Cubans _ to budget carefully, plan meals ahead, buy only what was necessary and never throw food away.

Most importantly, I realized that like most Americans, I take food for granted, assuming I’ll always get what I want when I want it.

Cuba’s ration system began in 1962 to guarantee a low-priced basket of basic foods just as the U.S. cut off trade with the island, sparking food shortages. Initially characterized as temporary, the program remained as Cuba struggled to feed its people, turning to the Eastern Bloc for most of its food.