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Great Taste from Food Waste

An integrated social franchise for urban poor homeowner associations to prevent food wastes, access safe food and feed the hungry.

Photo of Dante Dalabajan
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Oxfam Philippines (Large NGO) Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (Small NGO) Urban Poor Associates (Small NGO) Muntinlupa Development Foundation (Small NGO) Community Organizing Multiversity (Small NGO)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://philssa.org.ph/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Quezon City

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Philippines

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Metro Manila

What country is your selected Place located in?

Philippines

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

PHILSSA is a network of NGOs who are mostly working on the urban poor sector of the Philippines. Member NGOs empower informal settlement families by organizing them into homeowner associations (HOAs). These HOAs are formally accredited formations that struggle for their right for land and housing tenurial security. For this initiative, the NGO members selected are those working with various HOAs in four select cities of Metro Manila.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Metro Manila is the center of economic growth for an emerging high middle-income country. The economy is mostly driven by overseas remittances and is best described as a consumer economy. It has a population density of 20,000/km2,which is 60 times more than the national average (with the city of Manila being the most densely populated city in the world at 41,500/ km2). As such, more than the booming economy, Metro Manila is infamously defined by its standstill traffic. With inequality ranked in the top ten globally, poverty co-exists with the thriving business community. The urban poor are already second and third generation city dwellers. They are not just the migrating rural poor seeking economic opportunity, they are the main drivers of the city’s economy.

The traditional diet of Filipinos is rice, fish and vegetables. But soaring prices of fish and  vegetables is shifting the diet of the urban poor to whatever is affordable and convenient, for example instant noodles, canned goods. Years ago, it was unimaginable to import rice and fish at a large scale. But with rice tariffication pulling down farmgate prices to untenable levels,  conversion of agricultural lands to residential lots, and continuous decline of fish stock, the country has already locked-in food importation as the strategy for food security. The shift in diet has had an impact on the health of communities, with non-communicable “lifestyle” diseases fast rising even amongst the poor.

Women have socially been regarded as the food provider of the family. A large portion of her time is spent looking for and preparing food, alongside taking care of the children and supplementing the family income.

 The informal settlers primary struggle is around land tenure in the city. As long as there is a house in the city, the urban poor will find ways and means to bring food and cash to the family. Several NGO members of the PHILSSA network have organized the urban poor into Home Owners Associations (HOA) to empower them to secure their land and housing. Many of these HOAs transition to work on accessing essential services and other community development issues but rarely do they address food security.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

13923452

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The vision revolves around the reduction of food waste and provision of food for the hungry, but it is focused on caring and collective action of urban poor communities. It harnesses the agency of the urban poor women and men to be key decision makers in visioning, management, beneficiary selection, and benefit management.

The urban poor community will have three main components: urban container gardens (UCGs), community food bank (CFBs) and the community meal centers (CMCs). UCGs produce organically grown vegetables in containers to address both problems of fresh food supply and limited space. The organic produce serves first as food for the household to reduce expenditures and to nourish the family. Second, it provides a supply of fresh food to the community food bank and meal center. This ensures variety of recipes to be served to the community, especially since the supply of foodbanks from supermarkets will mostly be canned and processed food. The variety will enhance patronage from regular “clients” of the food bank and meal center. Lastly, the produce becomes the parents’ contribution to the feeding program of existing community daycare centers for pre-school children. Daycare centers in urban poor communities require volunteering from parents.

A second component is the CFB to provide the local collection, storage, distribution of food. The food sources are directly from UCGs, local food companies/supermarkets, and the PHILSSA Food Bank (which negotiates with multiple food sources). The bulk of the food goes to the meal center where cooked food is either packed or served. Packed food will be for students or workers who often eat lunch in school or in the workplace. As an income stream to sustain the community operations, food will be sold at a low price to local informal food stalls, ambulant food vendors, and local residents.

The CMCs provide safe and prepared food for the community for free. Prevention of food waste is applied in the preparation process and in promotions/awareness building to target clients/beneficiaries. Packed lunch is provided in the morning for students and workers. Meals will also be provided for home-based residents. Community Food and Safety Officers will be trained in ensuring that food is safe for consumption, are nutritious, and food waste in the community are reduced.

Linkaging with multiple large food manufacturers and supermarkets will be done by the PHILSSA network. It will operate its own centralized food bank to store large food donations and to equitably distribute the food to partner urban poor communities. PHILSSA will also engage with celebrity chefs as endorsers to facilitate linkages with the private sector, to promote the food bank/meal centers in the communities, to advocate together with the community for food waste reduction policies, and to build up confidence of locally trained community food and safety officers. Celebrity chefs can also help create recipes and endorse catering services of PHILSSA to create an income stream for the food bank.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The largest number of the poor in the country are found in Metro Manila, particularly in informal settlements. A large part of the family budget is spent on food yet hunger and unhealthy diets are prevalent. Many load up on cheap rice resulting to one of the highest rate of diabetes incidence. Some make do with instant noodles. Some resort to boiling scavenged food from the dumpsters to feed their family. Street children have been known to sniff inhalants such as rugby glue to remove the appetite for food .

Side by side the urban poor is the large quantity of food waste. Traditionally, Filipinos hardly waste food because parents give sermon children on the value of finishing food on the plate. They are famous for making use of every part of plants or animals in cooked food such as animal innards and fish heads.  But this tradition has eroded especially in the city with the convenient fast food and restaurant culture becoming the norm. The noticeable extreme is the food waste from the growing popularity of luxurious buffets springing in various corners of the city.

Invisible to many is the loss and waste from overproduction and manufacturing of food. Undeniably, a  large part of the food losses come from rural producers after the harvest, leading to most interventions on food loss focused on postharvest technology. However, the food economics and large demand to feed the growing population – especially in the cities – makes it more profitable to absorb the food loss and waste through overproduction and over-manufacturing. Even the cost of solid waste management is negligible for supermarkets and manufacturers. The hidden cost are the large amounts of emissions from food production, transportation and decomposition; the consumption of nutrient-deficient food of the masses; and the disregard and commodification life-giving food.

 There have been a few pilot food banks operated by foundations in Metro Manila and food giving of large bakeries to charities. But these are few. Moreover, these are disconnected from the large number of grassroots organizations that Philippine civil society is globally renowned for. If different stakeholders are to collaborate  and successfully address the food waste from the dysfunctional system, the key challenge is to empower the urban poor to lead the movement towards food sustainable and nourishing communities.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The driving spirit of community solidarity becomes its reinforcing impact. Nurturing a caring community around its food systems breaks barriers of inequality and opens opportunities for more community development.

The obvious change in the community is the reduction of hunger and the nourishment of the urban poor, especially the children. This enhances the human capital of the community, translating to better productivity from workers, better learning from students, and healthier lives for residents.

The community-led food intervention opens up multiple pathways for lessening food wastes. The Food Bank accesses food that is about to expire and prevents it from being thrown away. The Meal Centers prepare food with minimal waste. The awareness program and social pressure impacts behaviour of people on food consumption and waste. Policy campaign including solidarity from grassroots organizations support proposed to prevent food waste.

The intervention also impacts women’s lives directly since they are often the ones socially burdened with role accessing and preparing food for the family. The intervention not only reduces women’s load, it also opens up opportunities women for more time for other economic, social or political activities; for increased income through paid service in the community food banks and meal centers; or for supplementary livelihoods by setting up their own informal food stores.

 The intervention creates a self-sustaining community enterprise. The marketing of food at a lower price provides income for the maintenance of the initiative.  The meal center can also cater to events in the community. The technical skills trainings provided to local residents on food safety and waste reduction increases local capacity that can further open up other economic opportunities.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The intervention seeks the solidarity between and among urban poor communities. This fosters a social capital that allows them to cope with hunger and adapt to the growing population and shrinking resources per capita, increasing food demand and decreasing carrying capacity, and changing cultures and lifestyles. The caring community provides for the food needs of poorest of society. It also lightens the load and highlights the role of women in the food system, but beyond this, the vision is to build solidarity amongst different food stakeholders, between people and food, and between people and the environment. The intervention links different food stakeholders to each other to be sustainably operational.

With urban households becoming organic food producers themselves, they become not just consumers but producers of food. This builds solidarity with the farmers and fishers, which is a far cry from the current state which pits producers and consumers against each other in food price and policy wars.

With engagement with food distributors and food manufacturers, food restores its primary function – not as a commodity that can be merely traded and wasted, but us source of nourishment, especially of the poor. 

The intervention will build the capacities of urban dwellers on food safety, to educate community members on the preparation of safe and healthy food, and to raise awareness on food wastes. A social media platform will be created for community learning and transfer of knowledge on sustainable urban food systems.

Being conscious of food losses and food waste allows producers to be more efficient and consumers to be more selective with the food that they consume.  The overall produce per unit effort will be reduced to meet the demand of consumers. This results to less stress on the land and the seas, less emissions in transporting food from farm to plate, less energy and time required to process and prepare food, reduced pollutants on land and in the sea. Policy advocacy and technology development can be directed towards retaining nutrients and rehabilitating the resource base instead increasing production at lower costs.

The intervention is envisioned to be self-sustaining. While existing foodbanks rely on grants and donations to sustain staff and maintain warehouse, this intervention will rely both on the established caring system of the community and the revenue stream from selling affordable food products to residents and informal food stalls and ambulant vendors.

 To allow the initiative to be replicable, PHILSSA will develop the system to become a social franchise that can be “plug-and-played” by different HOAs in their communities. The social franchise allows the HOA to customize the system to adapt to the context of the community and the local food actors.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • We heard about Food Vision Prize through Oxfam Philippines.

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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