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Food security in Prague is less of a problem in some ways than in many places: many Czechs own or rent a 'country cottage' -- often little more than a garden shack, on small plots in 'garden colonies'. During the growing season it's common for relatives and neighbors to stop by with extra produce that would otherwise go to waste. Many are also adept foragers, with mushroom picking being almost a national sport.

However, since the Revolution in 1989, food security has begun to be challenged on a number of fronts: poverty has grown considerably, moving as it has, from a base of almost zero. The Czech Statistical Office does not seem to define a baseline for poverty, but looking at the income statistics for Prague, and estimating on the basis of my own knowledge of prices here I believe the figure is probably at least 5% and may go as high as 15%. (The income figures are much lower for other parts of the country, but as prices are also lower it is difficult to estimate the actual level of rural poverty.)

Anecdotally, since the Revolution it has become common to see old people, in particular, some of whom have tiny pensions, rooting through trash containers looking for recyclables. Homelessness and drug use has also become evident in some parts of the city.

The Romany population is particularly at risk and beleaguered on a number of fronts: racism is widespread, attacks on people of color common and pariah status has led many Romany children to be raised in orphanages (adoption and foster homes being uncommon here) and to attend, allegedly because of 'poor language skills', special schools for the developmentally disabled. This results in many having inadequate job and social skills to compete effectively as adults, even if racism were to be eliminated.

On the positive side, The Czech Republic still maintains a relatively strong social safety net, with parents of children being entitled to collect a governmental supplement for each child and mothers being allowed up to three years parental leave after the birth of a child (although in the third year the amount of paid support is minimal). Its membership in the EU also guarantees certain kinds of government support for social programs, particularly universal health care.

As a younger generation has grown up, though, there is increasing interest in organic food (called 'bio' here) and looking at the impact of food distribution practices as well as use of traditional variety of plants. A Prague Post article from 2009 looks at several community garden and coop projects.

This picture from the blog Ekostatek shows the latest pumpkin crop from one of the suppliers of the Prague Coop.

Perhaps one of the most interesting new developments is a joint project between the Ministry of Agriculture and the company Country Life-- one of the first suppliers of organic products in the Czech Republic. This project "Organic Schools" aims to bring organic produce into the country's schools. In addition, courses in cooking with organic produce are offered in a number of schools.

Overall, though awareness and concern about issues of food quality and security are still low, interest here is steadily growing.

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