In the Philippines, 27 million people live below the poverty line. In a country boasting 100 million people, this represents over a quarter of the population– roughly the population of Australia.
Of the economically poor, 16% are food insecure and fail to meet the guidelines of eating three meals a day. Roughly two million families in this group experience involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.
However, despite this staggering number of economically challenged, food waste is a huge problem in the country. Metro Manila produces over 2,000 tons of food waste every day. In a year, the country wastes approximately 308,000 tons of rice every year– enough to feed over four million Filipinos. With one-third of all food produced worldwide going to waste, Philippines follows global trends.
Food waste isn’t just about the food; there’s also the huge waste of resources used in agriculture: 35% of global land use; 50% topsoil loss, 69% of fresh water consumption and 89% of fish that are overfished at maximum capacity. This isn’t even factoring energy used in food production, transportation, storing and freezing.
Rotting food in landfill also produces the more-potent-than-carbon greenhouse gas, methane. With the food industry producing roughly 22% of global carbon emissions, mitigating climate change will mean implementing energy efficiency and sustainability practices.
Aside from the social and environmental problems, food loss and waste is also a government and business problem. The yearly cost of hunger in the Philippines is roughly PHp3.28 billion while the annual financial loss of global food waste is USD $750 billion.
To tackle this global problem, nations are actively implementing policies and measures to promote sustainable food production and consumption. Philippines is one of them.
Conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF PH), together with the Philippine government and the private sectors, have launched The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient for Sustainable Tourism program; a project being supported by the German Environmental Ministry through their International Climate Initiative.
Last week WWF PH hosted The Sustainable Diner Summit centring around the theme ‘Beyond Research: Sustainability in the Food Service Sector‘ and providing presentations on research studies with the goal of establishing a low carbon food service industry.
The country is committed to pursuing a low carbon development pathway by taking a sustainable approach to food security, food loss and food production to fulfill its commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 12 which focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Research into tackling hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines is ongoing. During the event, Annabelle Vitti Valenzuela of GECC Environmental Services presented its Feasibility Study on Food Donation Program. The organization’s mission is:
- to relieve the food insecure from hunger by feeding the poor through food sharing. This Food Donation Program or Food Sharing Network also includes the unserved population such as those who are in rehabilitation centers, prison and orphanages.
- By sharing food that is safe for consumption and giving them access to affordable and nutritious food, food waste reduction follows.
One of the pioneer cities, Quezon City, now promotes sustainable dining practices; the city boasts 200 urban farms supplying vegetables to the needy during times of calamities.
The need to introduce environmental sustainability in children’s early education is another way to tackle the food waste and hunger crisis. Teaching children about environmental responsibility will lead to better habit formation.
Alfred Johann Lee presented his talk on ‘Environmental Teaching manuals for Primary and Secondary School Teachers’ exploring the gaps in environmental knowledge in the education system. He announced that integrating environmental concepts into existing lessons will soon be implemented in public schools.
Improving sustainability of food service establishments across the country is one of the key aims of The Sustainable Diner program. Fortunately, many of the businesses today are starting to make the shift to more sustainable practices and options given the business risk around climate change.
“Sustainability and climate-friendly development are where the smart money is headed.”
At the event, the Wallace Business Forum presented findings of a ‘Cost-Benefit Study’ of integrating sustainable consumption and food production and found that the establishments that implemented sustainability practices such as reducing food loss and waste were performing better financially. This comes as no surprise since minimizing waste of resources and efficient use of resources will naturally curb financial loss and reduce expenses.
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Featured images supplied by author.