The sorry state in hunger

We are not really one of the 1st world countries. Our services in general are not the best in the world. But we try our best. At least some of us do. What gets me is the state of our population when it comes to food. Though we have an agricultural society and we are 7,100 islands surrounded by seas full with bounty, we are still in a state wherein malnutrition and poverty not only go hand in hand, but are married and sharing the same bedspace. According to recent studies, 32%of preschool children are underweight, with a serious Vitamin A deficiency. Iron deficiency affects 57% of all infants, 51% pregnant women and 46% of lactating women. This has been caused primarily due to poverty, a factor of which is the unequal distribution of food. 44% of the total population lived on a meager USD2.00 a day. It is estimated that 30 million Filipinos are unable to buy food to meet basic daily nutritional requirements. The realities of this can be found in several articles, one of which  can be found here. The author, Clarence Anderson, goes on to say


"...there is a fundamental disconnect between Filipino élites and the poor. The political leadership in the Philippines has always been drawn from those élites, and those politicians have traditionally played the role of patrons and benefactors, relying on the pork barrel and personal/family funds (often acquired through corruption) to essentially buy votes. The core principle of democracy - that representatives should be drawn from those they represent and advocate for the true interests of their constituents - has not been operative."


So far there has been the Republic Act 8976 - Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000, and it has been approved in 2007. But what can be said about it? We are more concerned about Sex Video Scandals and considering reelecting a convicted felon inito the highest seat in the country. It is a sorry state that our political leaders are observed to be obtuse when it comes to poverty. To wit


"...and the politically-driven nature of Philippine government sector programs almost ensures that the emphasis will continue to be on quick fixes or interventions that provide high visibility and political payoffs.'


This drives the point home that we have to take it upon ourselves to alleviate poverty, and in turn improve the general nutritional level of the very constituents that vote these people into power and into the coffers that are funded by our own taxes. Pork barrels are used primarily for the development of their areas, but how much of it actually goes into the development and progress? Rolling stores as devised by PGMA has been installed to alleviate hunger, but it rarely reaches rural areas where most of the individuals under the poverty line reside. Some private companies have partnered with the government to help in the fight. The Department of Agriculture recently partnered with AgriNurture to provide PhP10 Viands. but only in Metro Manila. What the...???


Some of the budget has been allocated into several programs and legislations. However, we have yet to see any significant progress. And there is a deficit on how the coffers are handled by the palace. According to one publication


"Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies estimated a funding gap of around P90 billion that makes the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for poverty reduction highly unlikely by the target year of 2015. "

With inflation and umployment rising, the gap seems to be getting wider and wider. Case in point, one travel site has advised expats that for food and groceries


" should budget between P25,000 to P40,000 per month. " People here barely make one fourth of that in take home pay. It goes on saying "...yes the cost of living in the Philippines is cheap but if you run out of money, the Philippines is not where you want to be."


As election year approaches, the politicos are running around keeping up appearances, pledging allegience to different parties. Yet they travel aroound the Archipelago in SUVs and hundreds of body goards through rural towns. They fly to different countries partaking in USD20,000.00 dinners, sponsored or not. How much money was contributed to alleviate the nutritional problems in their home country?

Or better yet, what are we doing ourselves? We pass by the railroad tracks everyday watching street urchins watch in hunger the day pass by. Or the bloated children begging underneath MRT stations. Some would feel sorry for the future generation. The more callous would dismiss them as simply being lazy. In either case, we go through Metro Manila thinking this is ok. It is not ok. What if they were your children?


With this line of thinking, what can we do? Since we could not rely on the beaurocratic red tape, we have to take the matter into our own hands. Sure, if whatever we do as the private sector succeeds, the government will definitely try to get a piece of the pie. If they don't get anything out of it, our elected officials and appointees will try everything to get it stopped. So here are a few suggestions:


Put up a real soup kitchen - privately funded, this would help the impoverished. Give them food, enough energy to have a better life. Contribute. Volunteer to dish out much needed nourishment at local schools, hospitals and charity organizations

Buy locally - this would put money into the farmers. They toil under the hot sun year in year out to feed the rest of us. And our soil is fertile and the climiate is perfect for crop production. If left to its own devices, the country is self sustainable. Why the hell then are we importing such staples as rice and sugar from other countries???

Devise a canned goods drive - donate canned goods and centrally locate the distribution. Give it to a reputable charity organization. Or better yet, deliver the goods yourself to an impoverished area. Give it to the church.

Redirect your resources - instead of the daily java fix at Starbucks, use the PhP500 to buy canned goods and donate it to one poor family. That could probably last them 2 weeks.

Visit the websites of hunger-relief organizations to learn what they do and how you can help.

Ask your favorite restaurant to donate non-perishable food

Donate your Grocery Frequent Shopper Points for the feeding of the hungry

Host a food drive with your favorite chefs and foodies

You can help feed the hungry by sending a letter to your Congressional representative and asking him or her to honor their commitment.

Join your neighbors, your co-workers, your faith community, your friends, and your family members to raise food and funds for those who desperately need them 

Teach people how to fish - help impoverished areas grow their own community vegetable gardens. teach them how to to care and grow these gardens. Teach them the kind of cooking that can be done. So they would not have to subsist on mediocre food. They will appreciate thet fact that what they feed on is what they grew themselves.

Manila has got talent - and put it too good use! Stage a talent show. Raise funds to feed the hungry. Charge tickets a minimal amount. Proceeds can then be used to purchase much needed food supplies.

Businesses and individuals can raise awareness about the problem of Philippine hunger through campaigns, events, advertising, public relations 

Sponsor a Walk-A-Thon against hunger.

Compile a newsletter, book, or brochure of healthy recipes using reasonably priced, easilyobtained food items. Publish and distribute these to other schools, community organizations, community services agencies and charity organizations to reach those who receive community food support.

Become a well-informed hunger advocate using information on hunger, poverty, and food insecurity in the newspaper, on the Internet, and in books, to then help inform others about the issues

Educate yourself about political candidates’ positions on hunger and poverty.

Plant a garden at home, in your community or at your school and share your produce with the needy in your area.

Create a video about hunger in our community and post it on YouTube

Encourage corporate environments to offer "dress down" opportunites in exchange for donated canned goods that would add to the food drive

Do not vote for corrupt politicians. What happens to a country where taxes that were intended to improve the lives of the people go to the pockets of the government officials instead? Corrupt politicians would spend their pork barrel funds in jewelries and luxurious travel instead of providing scholarship to deserving students or support projects that will boost livelihood among unemployed individuals.

Open up a business - this would open up employment opportunities that would otherwise not be found.
Sell unneeded items on eBay or Craigslist and donate the proceeds to battle poverty

Become a mentor to a disadvantaged young person in your community.


What else can be done to fight poverty and hunger in the Philippines? What can you contribute? Do you have another suggestion? Please leave a comment if you have a great idea, a violent reaction, a constructive criticism. At least let people know that you are not merely standing on the sidlines being complacent.

No comments: