We know that eating fruits and veggies is good for the health. We were told that in school and at home since we were young. This must be true as we see people reaching the age of 90 or even 100 claiming that a plant-rich diet is the secret to long life.
We rely on fad diets where we starve ourselves, or get rid of carbs, or binge-eat on meat and fat, when simply reducing one’s meat intake and eating more plants would have been easier.
Or maybe it’s not as easy as it seems. Colorful and tasty artificial treats are served in schools. Home-cooked meals are replaced by convenient fastfood. Powerful ads have brainwashed us to keep on consuming these so-called healthy products spewed by evil corporations. Local crops are disappearing. And we’re starting to forget what real food tastes like.
On June 17-23, we celebrated the World Meat Free Week and July is the National Nutrition Month in the Philippines. These events put a spotlight on food and how it affects our health and the environment. These are opportunities for us to make changes in our eating habits. That means as much as we hate veggies or don’t like the taste of it, we have to train our tongues. It takes a bit of self discipline and though we can’t really tell people what they’re supposed to eat, eating right is common sense.
Angelo Abcede, an environmental advocate and a vegan; Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace; and Drei Castillo of Good Food Community became part of the panelists.
Virginia gave an overview of the Diet for Climate Campaign of Greenpeace. She explained that Filipinos are eating more meat and less fruits and vegetables because of the notion that meat is nice, necessary, natural, and normal. This, however, is leading to health problems and negatively impacts the environment. She also mentioned that 30% of crops are grown for animal feed and 14% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock production.
Lessening one’s meat consumption or having meat-free meals a few times in a week already helps. For Angelo, having undergone multiple brain surgeries due to brain tumor, he believes that shifting to a vegan diet that upholds the principle of compassion paved way to his speedy recovery.
As someone who works closely with farmers, Drei said that the organic movement is growing but it’s still a struggle on the production side especially related to value chain. To contribute to the campaign, she encouraged constant conversation on the issue, getting to know our farmers, and changing our habits.
During the event, Angelo also introduced easy to prepare meat-free recipes – classic hummus made by blending chick peas, cumin seeds, roasted tahini garlic, and olive oil; and mushroom pulao, a sort of Indian fried rice cooked in spices.
Climate change might be too big an issue but our collective action through our individual food choices can already contribute to the solution.
Follow this link to learn more about the campaign: http://bit.ly/2G1AlS7
Buying groceries can be challenging for me because I have this mental checklist, a criteria that I base my decision on, before buying something. Ideally, it should be organic or natural, environment-friendly, locally produced, and has less packaging.
I always check the ingredients list. If I recognize most of the contents, none of those words you can barely read, then I’ll buy it. I used to eat a lot of junkfood but now, I mostly eat fruits and nuts for snacks! Occasionally, I buy sweets and pastries but I’m also trying to lessen my sugar intake (and the same goes with salt).
I remember a chef saying that you should train your tongue to eat real food. Kids hate veggies because early on, they get used to artificial food bathed in too much salt or sugar or flavoring. Once your tongue gets used to natural flavors, you’ll realize how, most of the time, the food being served is too salty or too sweet.
Minimalism is about mindfulness. Being mindful about the food we put in our bodies is something we should strive for. We should change the mindset that eating healthy is a punishment or is a way of robbing yourself of the good stuff because it’s not.
With people becoming more concerned of the state of the environment, who are also clamoring for safe and healthy food, the organic movement is slowly gaining attraction worldwide.
I got to learn more about the movement when I participated in the 2018 Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) Organic Foundation Course. ALGOA is a project initiated by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)- Asia.
This year, there were 27 participants from 12 countries namely Korea, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
Goesan County in Chungbuk Province, Korea was the perfect place to have the training program with its natural and beautiful environment. It is one of the birthplaces of organic farming in Korea. It is almost isolated that not so many Koreans themselves know of the place but it turns out that this could be an advantage for the preservation of nature and for organic agriculture to thrive.
During the Welcome Ceremony, the Mayor of Goesan said that he had three presents for us – the fresh air, organic food, and sticky corn. We, the participants gladly enjoyed these three.
Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. In its core are the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care. These principles were evident when we talked to local farmers, visited farms, and went to Hansalim, a cooperative established by both producers and consumers. One farmer we talked to said that they provide safe and healthy food for consumers and in turn, the consumers ensure that the producers can continue to make a living through farming. It was truly inspiring to see this sense of community built on mutual trust. It was also equally inspiring to meet young farmers. Young people would not normally choose to go into farming and prefer to work in offices in the city but it’s amazing how these individuals chose a road less traveled, so to speak.
During the training, we learned about JADAM organic farming (low cost agriculture); biodynamic farming (farming that follows the rhythms and cycles of nature); Organic Guarantee Systems; value chain; innovations; and marketing methods among others. Our minds were fed and our bodies, too – with organic produce that is local, fresh, and diverse.
To cap off the course, we attended the 4th ALGOA Summit, which brought together local governments and the private sector to discuss policies and ways to promote organic agriculture.
David Gould of IFOAM Organics International said that all of the Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to food. We must then realize the connections between healthy people, healthy food, and healthy farms. It’s still a long way to go for the organic movement to be truly embraced but through our collective efforts, we can work together towards a more sustainable future.
Climate change impacts food security which can lead to hunger.
This was stressed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño during the “Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” event on February 15, 2018 held onboard the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior Ship.
The said event aimed to promote eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat because a plant-based diet can mitigate climate change as it generates relatively low greenhouse gasses compared to the meat industry.
According to DOST Asst. Scientist Dr. Imelda Agdeppa of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, there is a problem of under and over nutrition as well as nutrient deficiency in the Philippines. This is due to the decrease in the intake of fruits and vegetables; and in contrast a slight increase of meat intake.
Greenpeace Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin mentioned that in a commissioned survey, seven out of ten Filipinos are meat eaters with meat being tasty as one of the reasons why they prefer it over vegetables.
To demonstrate that food can be healthy and tasty at the same time, Rainbow Warrior Chef Daniel Bravo, Chef Giney Villar of Feliza Taverna Y Cafe, and TV personality Love Añover-Lianko showed how to prepare meatless recipes.
Chef Daniel said that whatever is good for you is good for the environment as he presented his version of ceviche or kinilaw using mung beans (mongo) as the main ingredient. He called the dish “fruits of the earth” and described it as a nutritional symbiotic ecosystem.
Chef Giney encouraged the eating of raw, “living” food; to be familiar with the food that we eat; and to eat local. She created a fruit chocolate dip made from tablea, fried and green pinipig, and muscovado.
Meanwhile, Love Añover, as a mother, stressed the importance of making healthy food attractive for kids and teaching them how to eat and prepare healthy dishes. She came up with a salad dressing using honey, mustard, calamansi, pepper, and salt.
“Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” was part of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippine Leg Rainbow Warrior Ship Tour. The tour will be highlighting the real impacts of climate change in the country and, at the same time, celebrate solutions towards climate resilience and resistance.
Chef Daniel Bravo, Love Añover, and Chef Giney Villar
“Healthy Eats and Treats” with Holy Spirit National High School students.
“Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” performers – Catholic Filipino Academy Homeschool Orchestra, Kultura para sa Kalayaan (KULAY), and Safe Cities Youth Theater Advocacy Group (SCYTAG)
Chef Giney Villar said it’s because they’re not really exposed to it. Busy parents resort to easy to prepare processed food and convenient takeaways. The influence of fastfood advertising doesn’t help. I remember attending a baby’s christening celebration held at a fastfood chain. Children learn early on that unhealthy food is the best for them.
To promote healthy and sustainable eating among parents and school children, demonstrate healthy and sustainable ways of cooking food for children, and come up with simple doable list of activities for children and their parents on how they can eat healthy and help in climate change mitigation with their food choices, #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement together with Greenpeace organized the “Healthy Eats and Treats School Caravan” at West Fairview Elementary School on February 3, 2018.
Part of the event was a cooking demo by Chef Giney who introduced how to prepare tasty tofu patties. Just mix ground tofu, a little flour, grated carrots, chopped onions and onion leaves, plus salt to taste. Then it’s ready for frying. Chef Giney likewise showed how to make spaghetti sauce out of real ingredients – a mix of tomato paste, eggplant, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, sugar, and oil. Really, this aversion towards veggies can be prevented if we try to be a little more creative with our cooking.
During the school caravan, I asked the participating students about their favorite fruit and vegetable. Their answer, apple and squash. The most hated veggie, as expected, is ampalaya (bitter gourd). All of a sudden, a group of kids started chanting “chicken joy.” We had fish and pinakbet (Filipino vegetable dish) for lunch and I noticed not a lot of the kids finished the pinakbet. These say a lot about the current generation’s eating habit.
It’s not too late, though. As Chef Giney said, we can actually train our taste buds. Our tongues are so used to artificial food with high salt and high sugar content but we can start lessening our intake of these and slowly transition to healthier more plant-based diet. We do this for the sake of our bodies and the planet.
Last year, I was inspired to learn about the positive side of technology in Rappler’s Innovation + Social Good event. This year, I got to actively participate in the Social Good Summit (SGS) as I was able to share the campaign of #IAmHampasLupa.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:
Rappler also wrote about our story here. Thank you, Rappler!
The SGS with the theme, “#HackSociety 2017: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind,” focused on media and democracy; environment and climate change; peace, governance, and local development; and public health and well-being. It featured innovative solutions to society’s real life problems. It was also an opportunity for different groups to showcase the projects and the work that they do contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Speaking of SDGs, The 2030 Project organized “LEADERS Unite 2017: #OurGoals.” This is a youth initiative committed to supporting the attainment of the United Nation’s 17 SDGs Agenda by 2030. For this activity, I was invited as a Youth Champion for SDG#12: Responsible Consumption and Production where I discussed how our consumption behavior can contribute to climate change.
Both of these events were a reaffirmation of how this generation, branded as indifferent millennials, is actually doing its part to solve the problems of the world. So despite all the negativity these days, it’s nice to know that there are still a lot of good things happening around us.