Food scarcity is a problem that threatens the nation. With a growing number of hungry people each day, efforts are being pioneered nationwide to promote conservation of food and resources as well as to reduce food waste.
In DLSU, certain initiatives have been put into action such as placing more detailed labels on trash bins, as well as food production methods by emerging startups focusing on food security.
Looking at the bigger sphere
As revealed in the latest survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS), the number of Filipino families experiencing hunger has increased in the fourth quarter of 2017. It shows that 15.9 percent of respondents had at least one incidence of hunger for the past three months. In the national context, this percentage equates to roughly 3.6 million families.
One reason for this problem is food waste. In the Philippine food industry, around 33 percent of total food production goes to waste according to 2015 reports from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Moreover, a report from Rappler says that more than 269,000 metric tons of rice was wasted in 2008, enough for 2 million Filipinos.
That same report states that the lack of modern agricultural technologies, proper farm to market roads, and support for innovation and agricultural workers cause food wastage in the Philippines. While there have been efforts geared towards food preservation, the country’s problem in food waste is something that could still be minimized.
The University also sees its fair share of food waste. “Overall there is a lot of food waste in the University,” says University Pollution Control Officer Myklim A. Casibang from the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO). Based on the Waste Analysis Characterization Study (WACS) conducted last June 2016, Casibang reveals that a ton of garbage is collected in campus.
“51 percent of it are biodegradable o yung nabubulok and 50 percent of the biodegradable trash is food waste,” he expounds. Approximately 272.51 kg of food waste is collected around the campus every day. This food waste already comprises around 25 percent of all the trash collected in DLSU. As of now, this food waste just goes straight to landfills.
This year, the CSO decided to place new labels on trash bins. These labels specify which type of trash goes where, making it easy for students especially those who still have a hard time segregating their junk. “This is a stepping stone in our Solid Waste Management Plan to tackle waste in the campus,” he points out.
However, Casibang asserts that the University still has room for improvement when it comes to proper segregation of trash since large amounts of trash still remain unsegregated. “Maybe this could be due to a lack of awareness or ignorance,” he presumes.
One solution Filipinos have tried is the use of urban agriculture or urban farms. Some citizens have started to plant crops in their own backyards or communities. The Department of Agriculture, recognizing how much help urban farming contributed to dealing with food insecurity, has been aiding communities in building and maintaining their own urban farms.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) together with the Department of Education have also done their part. Feeding programs were conducted in selected schools. According to DSWD, this is done with the aim of not only providing a meal for people, but also to provide proper nourishment.
Meanwhile, multiple startups have tried to address the consumption side of food waste. Instead of getting people to produce more food, these companies get them to waste less.
U.S. based Food Cowboy links non-profit organizations to restaurants as excess food from their establishments are collected by the non-profits. Winnow Solutions, a startup based in London, uses technology to track what chefs throw away. The data is used to help lessen food waste.
In the Lasallian community, new startup businesses are breaking tradition by going beyond the standard business models. They do this not only to gain profit, but to bring something useful and more sustainable into the world. One of these startups is Lungtian Solutions. According to Eldrin Lee (PHY-MAT, 2016), Lungtian Solutions plans to address food insecurity by building urban farms that rely on aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.
“What we want to do is address food security [because] this has an effect sa hunger,” Lee states. “In the near future we would bring the farm into the city by leveraging on the aquaponics tech to optimize crop production,” he adds.
Lee further explains why their team decided to adopt the aquaponics system. “It promotes a circular system [and] it takes the best practices of aquaculture [which is] similar to aquariums and hydroponics or soilless planting to promote a sustainable system.” He continues, “Aquaponics tackles a lot of problems on food security especially food access and shortening the travel of food from farms.”
Future plans and proposed actions
To address this problem, the Campus Sustainability Office has multiple plans and proposed actions. One of them is to produce compost from the decayed organic materials extracted from discarded food.
“The compost will then be used as fertilizer for the greenhouse near Br. William Shaw Hall,” Casibang explains. “However we are still looking into this,” he adds. Other initiatives that have been put into action include placing more detailed labels on trash bins to properly segregate food from other wastes.
As for the rest of the Lasallian community, Casibang believes that “simple acts such as ordering half rice instead of the whole one especially for people who know they can’t finish it” is enough to create a change. Casibang supposes that food establishments, particularly those around the University, should do their part by putting that option in their menu. This will not only be good for business, but will also lessen food waste.
Casibang thinks that the advocacy of preventing food waste can be effectively propagated by student organizations and groups through awareness campaigns.
Along Taft Ave., there are several homeless people who struggle to have three or two meals a day. Paolo* advices, “If we are unable to finish our food when we eat out, we can always have the rest packaged and give it to the homeless.”
Joseph* also believes that it is imperative for people to make the most out of the food available. “Sometimes, it’s the small acts that can help in addressing national-scale problems such as food waste and hunger,” he presses.
*Names with asterisks are pseudonyms.