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TURNING POINT: Food Insecurity

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 13 November) — With the fading virulence of the COVID-19 and the economy finally opened after a hiatus of some two years, the nation expected, too, a fading bout with food insecurity. But no, Russia’s aggression war on Ukraine has reeled the country, if not whole world, from a damning energy crisis.

As a result, the prices of basic and prime commodities have spiraled sky high getting farther away from the reach of many. As if the punishment is not yet enough, the value of the peso over the dollar plummeted to a record low of P60, triggering a killing inflation, worsening further the plight of the people. 

When it rains, it pours. With Typhoon Paeng, it’s not simply a matter of rain pouring; the typhoon dropped vicious rain bombs across the archipelago, causing devastating floods and landslides, snuffing a number of lives, wasting crops, and destroying roads and bridges.

At no time has the Filipino people suffered this much from an aggregate of disastrous events. We are, thus, facing a looming food crisis never before experienced after WW II.

As always, the poor takes the brunt during food scarcity,

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, poverty incidence in the Philippines rose to 18.1 percent in 2021, equivalent to 19.99 million poor Filipinos. 

And the proportion of Filipinos whose income is not enough to meet even the basic food needs, was registered at 9.9 percent or about 10.94 million Filipinos in the first semester of 2021.

The staggering figures may have likely ballooned considering the recent whammy of calamities hitting the country.

Indeed, the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations in the second quarter of 2022 says that 12.2 million Filipino families consider themselves poor in terms of food. 

Surveys on food poor, which is often based on access and purchasing power of an individual, are usually carried out with people who have job or regular sources of incomes, not with the unemployed or those without any purchasing power in  blighted communities or among the homeless in the metro and the unskilled labor and climate-change farmer victims in the countryside.

Who are considered as food poor? The food poor are those who are as poor as the church rats, so to speak.

They have no access to food sources, or the opportunity to consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways for economic and other reasons.

How do the food poor cope with food unavailability?

In Metro Manila, many scavenge the trash of restaurants, especially in fast food establishments. The food items in the trash are then segregated from the rest, washed and recooked and become the family meals. Many survive this way, how hazardous to one’s health it may be. 

The recycled trash food is known as Pagpag (from pagpagan, meaning to dust off the dirt). They who have more than enough pagpag for the day share or sell them to the neighbors. 

On the other hand, the food poor in the countryside hunt and survive on field rats, wild root crops, and on coconuts that “fall from heaven,” that they took the liberty of bringing home as finders’ keepers, sans the knowledge or permission of tree owners.

Food poverty has multiple negative impacts on individual and community health and wellbeing. It’s imperative and crucial that the government increase the food assistance to the poor by realigning budget on confidential and intelligent funds. After all, there is no more need to spend huge amount of money looking for the enemy. The enemy is right here before us: Food insecurity. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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