You are what you eat

If you’re an environmentalist, it would be expected or assumed that you’re a vegetarian considering the fact that eating less meat helps the environment. The meat industry requires massive amount of land, food, energy, and water; in short, it has a huge carbon footprint. Add to that the issue of animal cruelty. So vegetarianism seems to be an ideal diet option.

You can also choose to be vegan (no animal byproducts), pescetarian (no meat but eats fish), or a flexitarian (occasional meat eater). People have different reasons for their diet whether it’s for the environment, health, or just a matter of preference. But choosing to be a vegetarian in the Philippines is a challenge where Filipinos are practically carnivores who love lechon (roasted pig), crispy pata (pork knuckle), bulalo (beef soup of shank with bone marrow), kare-kare (stewed oxtail with peanut sauce), and the list just goes on. Our idea of a vegetarian dish is vegetable with meat bits in it.

I haven’t been mindful of what I eat in the past but as I became immersed in sustainable consumption especially as a volunteer for the ecological agriculture campaign of Greenpeace, I began to make an effort in eating fresh, local, healthy food. I still eat fast food but I try to choose the “healthier” option. I also avoid softdrinks and junkfood.

Watching different documentaries on food made me realize how broken the food system is. Food, Inc. (2008) examined the inhumane and environmentally unsustainable food production in the US and the control of big corporations on our food. Super Size Me (2004) showed how a daily fast-food/McDonald’s diet can be detrimental to health. And there are more movies and documentaries revealing the truth behind our food.

We’ve heard news about how processed meat can cause cancer, the “pink slime” (meat-based product with ammonium hydroxide) being added to ground beef, chicken being pumped with growth hormones, and fruits and vegetables contaminated with cancer-causing pesticides.

Aside from food safety, food security is also being threatened due to climate change.

Where does that leave us? We’re encouraged to cook and grow our own food. And that may be difficult if you live in a big city where it’s all about fast and convenient way of doing things. However, there is a decline in fast food sales and a growing demand for organic and healthy food. Some farmers are now transitioning to organic or sustainable agriculture. And urban and container gardening is being promoted in schools and in communities.

Food safety and food security are complex issues. We have a broken food system and we can start fixing it by choosing and demanding for healthy, affordable food. As has been said, you are what you eat so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake.

You are what you eat
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Let’s talk about food

Food is a basic requirement for life which we have taken for granted. Aging farmers, food security issues as a result of climate change, and the proliferation of unhealthy, artificial food among others should be a cause for alarm.

With the aim of raising more awareness and sparking conversations on food security, the food system, and food in general, Good Food Community, Greenpeace Philippines, #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement, and Make Sense organized a series of activities from film showing, potluck dinners, picnics, and farm visits for the months of June and July. As a culmination, an MKS Room Event was held last August 20, 2016 at WeCube Makati. The said event combined panel discussion with social entrepreneurs and live music performances.

The panelists were Katreen Castillo from Good Food Community, Gio Espital from Bangkong Kahoy Valley, and Julia Alayon from Veritas Organic. They talked about their motivation for pushing for more sustainable food production and consumption. They explained how logistics, economy of scale, and demand could drive prices up for organic products. Health benefits, however, could compensate for such cost. They further encouraged the audience to go into urban gardening to really understand how food is produced.

Those who would want to be further involved can come up with their own food conversation session in coordination with Greenpeace Philippines and #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement. Important points from these conversations will form part of a recommendation to be given to policymakers.

We have a broken food system and it’s in our court to fix it. We can start by making a conscious effort of choosing safe and nutritious food that is produced sustainably. We do this for the sake of our own health, the environment, and the future of our food.