BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO

Food is one of the basic needs that sustain people. The lack of it could cause adverse health effects such as malnutrition, one of the leading problems that affect Filipinos today. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. 

When a child suffers malnutrition up to a certain age, it affects both the physical and mental abilities, leaving children with stunted growth, slow mental development, and other similar conditions. 

One reason behind malnutrition in the Philippines is the lack of food security. This means that Filipinos don’t get enough food to sustain them daily because of the lack of resources or inaccessibility. So even though the country vowed to eradicate hunger and poverty as a part of its sustainable development goal, there’s still a long way to go before Filipinos have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life. 

Determining the reasons behind food insecurity

Before we can slowly make our way to become food secure, the first thing we have to do is identify what stops our progress from making food available for everyone at all times. 

Yvette Tan, the editor-in-chief of Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture Monthly, explained that several factors contribute to the country’s food insecurity. These include a high cost of living, high food prices, and insufficient food sources. This situation only got worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now we have a loss of jobs, a loss of income and the tightening of borders which results in less access to food or more food wastage because more food is spoiled waiting for consumers,” Tan said. 

But these factors are only an oversimplification of a complex problem. Another aspect that plays a role in food insecurity is the lack of support in the local agriculture industry. 

Many locals are unaware of the important role that farmers play in feeding society, making it harder for them to support the people who put food on the table or realize the significance of agriculture in the growth of the country. 

Empowering farmers as a solution 

To help foster food security in the country, one solution that Tan offered is by empowering local farmers to lead a self-sufficient and good quality of life as well as encourage the youth to venture into agriculture so that moving forward, more people will realize that agriculture is an industry that has sustained us and our needs for years. 

Ensuring food security in the following years won’t be possible to achieve if stakeholders from different industries don’t work together towards a sustainable solution. 

According to Rodolfo Viccera, the Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy and Planning, the government agency has created a framework to promote food security in the country by beginning with empowering local farmers and fisherfolk.

Within the roadmap are five strategies composed of farm consolidation, modernization, industrialization, export promotion, and infrastructure development. These in turn will be enabled through proper budgeting and investing in local farmers and fishers, legislative support, and roadmap development. 

Viccera explained that all these approaches are to help the DA reach its goal of price stability, sustainability, food safety, increase food production and availability, as well as make it accessible and affordable to all Filipinos in the future. 

No matter what our status is in society, food is a necessity that we should secure for ourselves and others as well. And since we’re stakeholders in the agriculture industry because we eat food, we should play our part in fostering food security in the Philippines by treating our farmers with respect and dignity. After all, they’re the ones who put food on our tables. 

This was all discussed in the webinar titled “Bahay Kubo Kitchens: Status of Food Security in the Philippines.”