If there is one thing that the Filipinos are good at – hands down – it is in our “bayanihan” spirit. The desire to help each other is just innately in our system. Proof of this is every time calamity strikes: people have the amazing skill in quickly organizing themselves, calling out for donations and bringing them to those in need. Come hell or high water, those relief goods will reach the intended recipients.
The community pantry is a similar case, and is now closer to most of us – as it is now as the name suggests, all within our community. What started in Maginhawa, Quezon City has now been replicated literally across the country in such a short span of time. This community pantry has the essentials that a household would need such as noodles, sardines and other dry goods. The idea is simple: you get what you need.
However, stories have now filled social media and local news with people getting more than their fair share, such as a woman in Kapitolyo taking two trays of eggs claiming that she will give to her neighbors (she never did); and some residents in Las Pinas mocking smaller pantry set up. What we all fail to realize is that as a people, we essentially have a behavioral problem. Sure, collectively we are good in keeping the bayanihan spirit alive, but individually, at the core of it, addressing supply issue just would not cut it.
While the idea is truly noble, the act addresses the need only in the short-term. It still remains very much to be a supply-driven activity rather than doing a more sustainable one.
I am reminded of this biblical passage: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” every time I see donation drives or something similar. Providing supply is a good tactical approach (in the meantime) but it is about time to think about more sustainable activities in helping out our citizenry, especially those who do not have access to food.
Citizen-led activities can focus on some ideas highlighted below:
Teach people to prepare their own food instead of having to rely on sardines and noodles as part of their daily provision. Not only is this a healthier choice, but the body will have a stronger system if food eaten is made fresh. Government agencies such as Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority have a lot of information on skills training available to complement civic effort.
Provide beans, lentils, pulses and other similar and economical food items as alternatives to canned goods and instant noodles. Beans are economical and provide high protein nutritional value at the same time.
Information drive on the benefits of eating healthy versus eating processed food in this time of the pandemic.
We should look into the sustainability (more strategic) part more than the supply (more tactical). This will truly help create impact in the lives of those in need especially in the long term.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org