What is (slow) food security?

I have read comments and editorials about processed meats and that “they are the main protein source” of the marginalized. Are they really? Are we not thinking of monggo (mung bean), kadyos and bukel as protein sources, too? We must start rethinking the notion that canned goods are the way to go to feed a hungry nation.

Look at the community pantries. It started with kamote and you can see the lit-up faces of the people lining up for fresh vegetables and root crops – not instant noodles and canned goods.

In one place in Pasay, an exporter gave away okra and the whole street (a long street) probably had steamed okra or pinakbet as their viand for that one day. But it’s fresh vegetables, not canned meats.

Why are we centered on canned meats? They are the cheap MDM (mechanically deboned meat) from Brazil and other meat producing countries, made into hotdogs and sausages that we feed our kids. And because the MDM will now be expensive (from USA or Australia), the canned goods will double in price for the grocery goer.

Slow Food (www.slowfood.com) is a grassroots movement which encourages people to eat good food (delicious), clean of pesticides and chemicals and fair food (fair to us as consumers and fair to the producer). I don’t think it refers to canned food.

Rather it encourages:

• Food preservation like atchara and buro. These are done when a bountiful harvest has to be preserved using only salt and/or sugar without any chemical preservatives.

• Eating paksiw (vinegar as main ingredient) which requires no refrigeration. Thus, the marginalized can definitely use this method rather than opening a piece of canned MDM.

• Even our adobo, done in many different versions, requires no refrigeration. And anything with vinegar can be adobo – even vegetables like the lowly kangkong.

• Growing your own food in pots and in natural containers (banana trunk, used soda bottles, etc.)

I think the Filipino eater is being taught a lesson – that not all convenience products are the solution to food security. The solution is to go back to basics, learning how to go back to the soil.

For about ten years or so we have been growing pechay, mustard, bokchoy in our little farm. Though we grew lettuce for our café (which has closed when COVID started), we grow mostly lowland vegetables for our family and extended families.

During summer we are able to get some duhat, avocado and santol; and regularly we have kamias and langka (jackfruit).

I admire those who take the effort to also plant their own vegetables as I see in Instagram – Rep. Loren Legarda, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan and his sister Maricel Arenas. Ces Drilon and Ricky Carandang in their Tanauan farm. Chef Beth Romualdez in Alfonso, Cavite.

It’s high time we looked deeper into food security…and that canned goods are really not the way to feed or nourish our people. Rather, it is teaching children how to grow vegetables from soil, how to pick or harvest their own food.

There is a high when you eat and know where your food comes from. Definitely much easier to just open a can, or unwrap a soup bouillon cube, but there is no joy like smelling your fresh produce and finally tasting its natural sweetness.

I think we should learn from all these challenges of supply chain, logistics and importation of MDM, as an example. Think of other proteins. It’s time to slowly (pun intended) change our concept of healthy food, our concept of nutrition. And that nothing is better than fresh produce, grown closer to your house or point of use. Be a locavore.Try to eat everything you know the origin of.

And probably get to know the farmer who grew it. In Palawan, a friend has a model for a 15 sqm plot with 30 kinds of vegetables, and a 100 sqm plot that can feed a family of five – saving them P3,000 a month in vegetables they no longer have to buy from the market. In fact, because he added aquaculture, chickens and goats to his now sustainable farm set-up, he has not taken a trip to a public market for a whole year.

Now, that’s food security. Get to know a farmer today. Or maybe be one.

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Chit Juan is councillor for Southeast Asia of the Slow Food Movement.

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Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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