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Filipino moms rank first in food campaign

Publication Date : 06-09-2012

 

Filipino mothers rank first in wanting to make a difference in the world’s ailing food system. This is the finding of a six-country survey of Oxfam, an international NGO.

In its report, “The Food Transformation: Harnessing Consumer Power to Create a Fair Food Future”, Oxfam said women who make the majority of the decisions about the food their families eat control amounts to around US$12 trillion or 65 per cent of the world’s annual consumer spending. The Oxfam report also revealed that the women surveyed want to know what changes they can make in the way they buy, store and prepare food in order to tackle hunger and help the environment.

Oxfam found out that 73 per cent of mothers living in urban areas of the six countries surveyed said they want to know how to make a difference when they shopped for food. Filipino mothers posted the highest at 88 per cent.

Oxfam laments that the global food system—how food is grown, distributed and consumed—sends 1 billion people to bed (if there are beds) hungry every night. And yet consumers, women in particular, can dramatically turn things around by making “positive food choices”.

It must be instinct that drives women to always find ways to make changes for the better. But it would be even better if they are shown how, where, when, what and why. For example 83 per cent of all the mothers in the survey said they wanted to know how to use less energy when cooking. More than 75 per cent also said they were happy to make other changes such as feeding their families a meat-free meal once a week. And 85 per cent of Filipino mothers were willing to give up meat, while 96 per cent of them wanted to know how to use less energy when cooking.

This brings to my mind a nun who taught poor rural women how to cook nutritious and delicious meals that used cheap, indigenous and readily available ingredients. Ingredients that many ignored because these were thought to be less tasty or because people were ignorant about their nutritional value.

That is why I am glad that the humble malunggay that thrives just about anywhere is now the toast of nutritionists and alternative healers. And so is the kamote which still has to be rehabilitated from years of verbal abuse, as in nangamote, which refers to a person grovelling in failure. And now the violet variety is even vaunted as a super food. I have planted some in my backyard but the heavy rains weren’t very kind.

Said Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino, Oxfam spokesperson for the Philippines: “The survey shows that Filipino women can be a force to fix the way we manage food. Filipino women—and men who must begin to share this responsibility—can do this through positive food choices that redound to the good of our food system.

“For example, they can buy produce from small farmers to help strengthen their livelihoods and therefore sustain food production for the long term.” In the Philippines, she added, Oxfam is working with partners to put up women’s markets—alternative spaces which sell food sustainably produced by women, women who remain largely unrecognised as food producers.

Last year, I wrote a magazine feature on women farmers who grew food with their own hands and the celebrity chefs who showcased the resulting dishes in an Oxfam lunch event. While I like to see more of this, I would also like to see TV food shows that teach poor families how to cook cheap, nutritious and delicious dishes.

TV has so many cooking shows that feature celebrity chefs and other wannabes who promote food brands, equipment and themselves. Why not a no-nonsense pang-masa TV food show that is instructive? Will there be sponsors?

TV is a must-have even for poor families because it is the cheapest entertainment for them. You see TV antennae sticking out from homes under bridges. Maybe food/cooking lessons of the TV kind would work best among women in organised communities. Women learning together and trying out new things together.

Street families—now a new sector unto themselves—are a different story. They surely have food stories—shortages, that is—of their own.
“Women across the globe are concerned about the way food is produced and the people who produce it,” said global Oxfam spokesman Colin Roche. “They want to know what they can do to make a difference and together they are a powerful force for change.”

Oxfam, he added, has come up with ways women can adopt—from cutting waste to using less energy—that anyone can do to help put the global food system back on the road to recovery. What we do in the supermarket or in the kitchen does matter, he said.

Five positive choices which, if people around the world would make, would help farmers feed themselves and their communities and tackle climate change that adversely affect food production: Eat less meat, reduce food waste, support small-scale food producers such as buying Fair Trade, buy seasonal, and cook smarter. Why? Visit www.oxfamblogs.org/philippines.

The survey of over 5,100 mothers from towns and cities in Brazil, India, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain showed that women in developed countries felt less connected to food producers and less knowledgeable about their food choices’ impact on people and planet as compared to women in developing countries.

Oxfam said 86 per cent of Filipino mothers surveyed felt they knew how their food choices affected the wider world compared to 46 per cent in the US; 60 per cent of Indian women surveyed felt a connection to food producers compared to just 23 per cent in the UK.

In the Philippines, Oxfam is working with women farmers and fishers to promote sustainably produced food.

 

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