MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Together with Earth Kitchen Katipunan, Rise Against Hunger Philippines, Solu, and Greenspace, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines launched the new theme for the media trip series’ second year in Quezon City last March 16, 2019.
 
2.4 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months. Only 1 out of 3 Filipino households are considered food secure. In 2016, 6.8% of Filipino households experienced not having any food at home.
 
These sobering statistics give us a glimpse of the reality that families are facing when it comes to the major hunger issue we are experiencing in the Philippines. And yet, it has been estimated that each Filipino still wastes an average of 3.29 kg of rice per year, which, when totaled, would be enough to feed 4.3 million Filipinos.
 
There is clearly a gap between the amount of food we are able to produce as a country and the amount of food made available for our citizens to consume. That gap is actually the amount of food that we knowingly or unknowingly waste.
 
“Food waste is the biggest threat to nature today. When 70% of terrestrial biodiversity loss and when 69% of global freshwater use is attributed to food consumption and production, knowing about food waste is not enough. We must do something. We must create sustainable food systems for the survival of both Filipinos today and tomorrow”.
 
With that call to action, Melody Melo-Rijk, WWF’s Project Manager for Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Philippines, welcomed participants from Quezon City to the launch of the Savour Planet workshop’s new theme – No Place for Waste.
 
 
Recognizing the importance of educating Filipino diners on various ways of how they can help lessen food waste, WWF-Philippines, through its pioneer project on sustainable consumption and production, The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient for Sustainable Tourism, has launched the 2019 run of its flagship media trip series at Earth Kitchen Katipunan – a restaurant dedicated to supporting local farmers and indigenous communities through the promotion of the farm-to-table concept. As the project’s flagship series, Savour Planet aims to empower and educate Filipino diners, partners from the media, the academe, as well as fellow non-government organizations and food security projects on the importance of sustainable food systems and sustainable dining. While last year’s theme, Cooking with a Purpose, focused on establishing an intimate connection between diners and the food that they eat through cooking, the new theme aspires to take that connection further by empowering diners to explore different avenues by which they can help keep the food on their plates from being wasted.
 
“All over the world, 1/3 of the food produced never reaches our plates every single year. Food waste is never okay. We have to instill this in the minds of our consumers because it is morally and socially unacceptable for us to waste food”,’ says Melo-Rijk, who opened the workshop by giving a brief introduction of The Sustainable Diner project and the context as to why the project was conceptualized in the first place.
 
“When we talk about restaurants, food waste would also mean wasting money. There are hidden costs to food waste, some of which include labor cost, energy cost, disposal cost, and other added costs related to biodegradable waste management.”
 
To illustrate the gravity of the manner by which we waste food, Melo-Rijk brought to attention a source of food waste which most people usually contribute to without fully knowing its implications: ugly produce. The term “ugly produce” refers to produce that are misshapen, undersized, discolored, bruised, or in possession of unusual spots. These kinds of produce are usually ignored by the market, who would opt to go for “perfect-looking” items believing that they would taste better and would contain more nutrients than their bruised and battered counterparts. Melo-Rijk was quick to dispel this common perception. “When it comes to fresh produce, the ugly is just as good as the pretty in terms of taste and nutrition. Food safety is not based on outside appearances – for as long as the inside is not compromised, these food items should be safe to eat”,’ says Melo-Rijk.
 
“Certain studies even promote that ugly produce can sometimes be more nutritious because most of them are organically farmed, with no alterations in terms of the nutrients that they contain. When we buy ugly produce, we help prevent food waste.”
 
Jomar Fleras, the Executive Director of Rise Against Hunger Philippines, then talked about the hunger situation in the Philippines, with an emphasis on the role of food banks in both the alleviation of hunger and the rescuing of food that would otherwise be thrown away. He opened to the participants the option of food donation as a viable means of decreasing instances of food waste in their daily lives and contributing to the greater goal of sustainable development.
 
“To those who are familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals, we know that at the very core of these goals is the capability to ensure food security at the household level. When it comes to SGD 2, which is Zero Hunger, there is absolutely no compromise. There are no reduction targets, plain as day, we need to end global hunger”,’ says Fleras.
 
“With existing policy frameworks in the Philippines that encourage the donation of food for charitable purposes, food banking becomes a vital platform to the attainment of SGD 2 and the prevention of further food waste. With Rise Against Hunger Philippines and the Good Food Grocer, our mission is to provide nutritious and safe food to nutritionally at-risk individuals and families.”
 
Aside from donating food to avoid food waste, there is also much talk about the ways in which we manage our waste. Waste management is becoming a big problem, especially in developing countries like the Philippines where consumption in various forms, including food, has risen tremendously. Proper waste segregation can prove to be instrumental in salvaging food from our landfills, especially when 52.31% of our solid waste consists of biodegradables, which includes food waste and garden waste. This is where Solu comes in, and their Lead Strategist, Pang Delgra, made a great case on why our waste management systems need to innovate to keep up with the times.
 
“The current waste management system is broken. People want to segregate, but they know the effort is futile when everything is just being brought to the same landfill anyway”,’ says Delgra. “As a platform that connects all market participants and incentivizes citizens to sell their segregated waste materials, Solu enables Filipinos to make money from their waste and to help the environment through sustainable waste disposal”.
 
 
The micro-talks ended with a presentation on bokashi composting, led by Rina Papio, Founder of Greenspace by introducing the participants to the concept of bioremediation, or the use of biological organisms to break down environmental pollutants and solve environmental problems, Rina was able to paint a clear picture on how microorganisms can turn food waste into nutrient-rich compost that will help keep our soils healthy.
 
“Bokashi composting is a great way for individuals to divert food waste away from our landfills. With the help of beneficial microorganisms, we can turn food waste into healthy soil and keep it from polluting the Earth”,’ says Papio.
 
“With bokashi composting, anyone can create their own green space in just four easy steps. Just collect your food waste and layer it with bokashi bran, tightly seal your bokashi bucket to allow for anaerobic fermentation, mix your fermented food waste with soil, and then after four weeks, you will already be able to use the compost you made in your garden.”
 
During the actual demonstration, the participants gamely participated in the afternoon bokashi workshop, where they learned first-hand how they can help regenerate the soil and even grow their own food using repurposed food waste in the form of bokashi compost. Afterwards, The Sustainable Diner team surprised the participants with a giveaway of 5 bokashi composting kits. The lucky winners will use these kits to start off and write about their composting journey.
 
By emphasizing to Filipino diners the need to reduce food waste and by introducing them to different food waste reduction and diversion techniques and platforms, WWF-Philippines hopes to foster a greater consciousness when it comes to addressing the effects of business-as-usual food consumption and production patterns. Sustainable dining is not just about the food that we are about to consume in the moment, but also about the food that we will leave behind. With innovation, ingenuity, and inspiration, it is possible to prove that here in the Philippines, there really is just no excuse nor place for food waste.
 
The Sustainable Diner project, under WWF-Philippines’ Sustainable Consumption and Production, is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.
 
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Challenges: 
  1. 3.6 million families experience involuntary hunger at least once in 3 months. (SWS, 2017) 
  2. 8% of annual total greenhouse gas emissions come from  global food loss and waste. Global food waste emissions almost parallel the global road transport emissions. Hence, “if food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitting one in the world.” (FAO, 2016) 
  3. Filipinos waste rice enough to feed 4.3 million Filipino people. (IRRI, 2010) That amount can almost feed the population of Laguna and Bohol combined (PSA, 2015) 
 
Opportunities: 
  • Willingness to pay more for green products and services among millennials increased from 55% in 2014 to 72% in 2015. (Nielsen, 2015) 
  • More Filipinos choose to dine out than make their own meals. (Nielsen, 2014) 
  • From 2011 to 2015, sales in food service grew from Php 3.59B to Php 3.8B. (USDA, 2015)