How does Cuba’s food rationing system work?

Cuba’s food rationing system has been in place since 1962, when American sanctions placed a sudden burden on the population. Although the prices of rationed items are low, most Cubans have to supplement their supplies at higher-priced stores. There has been talk that the rationing system will be ending within the next few years. 

Under the office of registration of customers (Oficina de Registro de Consumidores, popularly known as Oficoda), every household has a food ration book in which the bodega (grocery store), butcher shop or milk store clerk’s record each purchase. Each clerk also has a book to keep track of the products sold to each household: The household ration book and clerk’s book have to match. His book must also match the products sold during the month.

Each household ration book has a number, and the clerk’s book contains the number for each household and the list of products he is supposed to sell. Each ration book also contains a list of household members and their dates of birth, so the clerk knows if there’s a child under the age of 10 or a household member over 60. He gets his books from the state company that handles rationing. A separate book keeps track of the beef or milk for households that have children. Other information is kept on file for senior citizens and those on special diets (or “dietas.”)