How to combat hunger

Joel Villanueva

SENATOR Joel Villanueva is pushing for the establishment of food banks and soup kitchens nationwide to combat hunger and malnutrition among Filipinos.

In filing Senate Bill No. 344 or “Pagkain Para sa Lahat Act,” Villanueva expressed hope that surplus food produced by restaurants, food manufacturers and other food establishments should not go to waste and instead to the tables of needy families.

According to the 2016 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry of the Philippine Statistics Authority, some 30,889 establishments in the formal sector of the economy were engaged in accommodation and food service, with restaurants leading the sector numbering 7,218 establish-ments. This was followed by cafeterias with 4,725 establishments and fast-food chains with 4,411 establishments.

Senator Villanueva also noted in the bill’s explanatory note that since 2018, more than 2,000 food establishments have opened up. In Bonifacio Global City alone, there are already 889 operating food establishments.

“The food surplus produced by these establishments would go a long way to feed the hungry, and help reduce the number of malnourished and underweight Filipinos,” Villanueva said.

Incidentally, the countries around the globe celebrated World Food Day last October 16. “This year, World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat,” according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to the Global Hunger Index, about 20 percent of the Philippine population is categorized as underweight, while some 32 percent have stunted growth, Villanueva said.

“On the one hand, the country is facing a crisis in malnourishment and hunger, but on the other, there is a boom in the culinary market. This picture is even made more appalling by the fact that a significant number of food produced in the country does not go to the tables of the people who need it the most and simply ends up in the landfill,” Villanueva added.

To address this gap in food production and hunger and food waste, the senator filed Senate Bill No. 344, which seeks to establish a “Pagkain Para sa Lahat Program.”  The Program aims to ensure that food surplus of all food-related businesses is channeled and distributed to food banks and soup kitchens.

These food banks and soup kitchens would store and utilize the food surplus for distribution and/or preparation to citizens who need food the most, he said.

The bill also mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ensure that at least one food bank and soup kitchen is available in every city or municipality.  In the absence thereof, the DSWD shall immediately inform and coordinate with the local government unit concerned the establishment of a food bank and soup kitchen in such locality.

All food-related businesses and other partners who participate in the program can claim the full amount of their donation as a deduction in their gross income. All donations made are also not subject to donor’s tax, according to the bill.

The measure further mandates the DSWD, which will be the lead and coordinating agency for the proper implementation of the program, to establish, in coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, an incentive system to recognize the best practices of all partners in the implementation of the program.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food