Environmental group Greenpeace, along with various stakeholders from the food and nutrition research sector, the agriculture industry, the academe, religious groups and other civil society organizations convened to discuss and address the country’s food and nutrition gaps that, if left unattended, could lead to a ‘food emergency situation’.
In recent weeks, the country has witnessed several food scandals- with alarming news of fake rice and fake noodles out in the market, to various food poisoning incidents in different parts of the country. There is also the latest poll from the Social Weather Stations that revealed how 37% of families (or an estimated 8.1 million) consider themselves as food-poor, while 12.7% of families (or an estimated 2.8 million, have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months .
“When we talk of food and nutrition issues in the Philippines, many factors come into play, such as poverty, agriculture, access to food, consumption and our existing food systems, said Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Greenpeace Philippines Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner. “There is a need to examine and evaluate the nation’s views on food and nutrition. More than just being ‘foodies’, we should be discerning when it comes to our food and ask if what we eat and feed our families with is safe and nutritious, even ask who produces it and how.”
Greenpeace recently launched an online survey on what Filipinos normally eat everyday. Dubbed#AnongFoodMo , the crowd-sourcing initiative was aimed at social-media savvy folks who are unaware of the role they play in shaping the country’s food and agriculture systems which are vital in solving the country’s hunger and food insecurity.
Results from the 2013 National Nutrition Survey show that the Philippines is faced with a double-burden of malnutrition: under nutrition among children and over nutrition among adults.
“Sad to say, but this is a result of Filipinos not having equal access to healthy and nutritious food,” said Dr. Cecilia Cristina Santos-Acuin, Chief Science Research Specialist of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.
“Even those with access to nutritious food are not eating healthy and smart. They are not eating a lot of fruits and vegetables than they should. Instead, adults are eating a lot of high calorie food and are not exercising enough.”
Greenpeace and other stakeholders believe that the government and society have a huge role to play in transforming the Philippines into a nation of healthy eaters and discerning consumers to help avert a food emergency situation.
“A good way to start is by modifying our patterns of food production, consumption and distribution. Most importantly, there should be emphasis on diet diversification which encourages people to eat sufficient amounts of nutrient-rich food such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, fruits and vegetables”, said Wilhelmina Pelegrina, Greenpeace Food and Ecological Agriculture Regional Coordinator. “Philippine agriculture— the source of our nutrient-rich food— must be strengthened through the promotion and practice of ecological agriculture, a farming method that works with nature and does not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides which pose risks to people and the environment.”