Class of 2021

Mariana Aleixo

Empowering Educators

After graduating with degrees in gastronomy and production engineering and working in food and beverage in Rio de Janeiro’s wealthy neighbourhoods, Mariana Aleixo was always destined to use her learnings to improve the livelihoods of the women of Maré, the favela (shanty town) where she grew up. In 2010, she set up Maré de Sabores to explore ways to use gastronomy to benefit the favelas and peripheral neighbourhoods of Rio and beyond. She integrated it into Redes da Maré, an institution that fights for effective public policies to improve the lives of Maré’s 140,000 residents.

Through Maré de Sabores, Mariana empowers women and encourages their development through gastronomy courses and entrepreneur mentorship. Aside from offering professional certification to the women of Maré, it also has a buffet-style restaurant run by graduates of the course. From this project came Casa das Mulheres (the Women’s House), a three-storey building providing assistance – and potential financial independence – to women facing domestic violence.

During the pandemic, Mariana created a food bank and provided daily meals to the most vulnerable. She says the pandemic has “opened and deepened social and economic inequality in Brazil,” and there is much work to be done – but it is clear she’ll keep pushing for progress and relief in the community.

“My aim is to use gastronomy to provide favela residents with tools and skills, to strengthen the grassroots movements in the fight for food security, public policies access and women’s rights and to set a reference for other peripheral areas in the world.” – Mariana Aleixo

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