The Pinoy “bayanihan” (camaraderie) spirit has resurfaced with the recent establishment of neighborhood community pantries around Metro Manila and other residential areas in the country. These self-run pantries rely on good Samaritans who donate foodstuff and other essential items for those in need. Operating on the supposedly self-sustaining principle of “Giving according to one’s ability, taking according to one’s need (Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan)”, these community pantries have sprung up amidst the worsening inability of more and more Filipinos to cope with the harsh realities of everyday life—exacerbated even more by the crippling Covid-19 pandemic.
The numbers from the scientific community prove this dire situation. According to the Rapid Nutrition Assessment Survey (RNAS) conducted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) from November 3 to December 3, 2020 covering 5,717 households with 7,240 individuals, with mothers or caregivers respondents on behalf of their young children, 6 out of 10, or 62.1% of surveyed households, reported they experienced moderate to severe food insecurity, and that food security is highest in households with children (7 out of 10) and households with pregnant members (8 out of 10).
Food insecurity peaked between April and May 2020 during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), the survey also revealed. (Editor’s note: It would follow that after the recent two-week reimposition of the ECQ in March, and the ongoing MECQ this April in the National Capital Region and its immediate environs, food insecurity would be expected to hit more peaks).
Provinces and highly urbanized cities (HUCs) covered by the RNAS were clustered into major island groups of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, and categorized further into low-, medium-, and high-risk Covid-19 infection. This grouping was based on the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) classification issued last July 15 according to the number of Covid-19 positive cases reported by the Department of Health (DOH) NCOV tracker as of July 16.
Food insecure families adapted various coping strategies to avail of food during the pandemic. These included purchasing food on credit (71.7%), borrowing food from relatives and/or neighbors (66.3%), through barter (30.2%), while some adults reported that they limited their food intake in favor of children (21.1%).
Food insecurity is the state in which people are at risk or actually suffering from inadequate consumption to meet nutritional requirements. Food insecurity is a result of the physical unavailability of food, people’s lack of social or economic access to adequate food, and/or inadequate food utilization, according to the Global Forum on Food Security of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2012).
Historically, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of food insecure households from 2018 to 2019, based on the Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of DOST-FNRI. The ENNS showed that food insecure households increased to 64.1% in 2019 from 53.9% in 2018. Food insecurity was higher in rural areas, male-headed households, poor households, households with heads with lower educational attainment, and households engaged in agriculture, the ENNS further revealed.
Proper nutrition is essential, especially during pandemics and calamities, to stay healthy and well-nourished by boosting immunity and avoiding contracting Covid-19 and other diseases.
As part of DOST-FNRI’s interventions to help mitigate food insecurity, the Institute has ongoing initiatives such as the Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP), an integrated intervention strategy involving nutrition education and transfer of food technologies through its Technology Transfer programs. DOST-FNRI also has the Oh My Gulay! which models the establishment of edible gardens in offices in urban areas.
And yes, there are the citizen-initiated community pantries to help alleviate the daily hunger, and which also goes to show that though the majority of Filipinos may be suffering from food and nutrition insecurities, they still get their fill of that spirit of helping. (DOST-FNRI)