Simot plato: The poor waste no food

Fritzie Rodriguez
Simot plato: The poor waste no food
More than half of poor Filipino households among the country's poorest provinces say they do not waste food, an August-September 2015 World Food Programme survey reveals

MANILA, Philippines – Wasting food is not an option for most of the country’s poorest.

More than half of the poorest Filipino households do not experience food wastage, a 2015 survey by the World Food Programme (WFP) revealed. Among the surveyed families, 55% said they “almost never” waste their meals in a week, while only 6% said they waste food every day. (See table below)

Households and their experience of food wastage

Source: WFP Philippines/Laylo Research Strategies

Almost never happens in a week 55%
In some days of the week 24%
About 1 or 2 days in a week 14%
Almost every day 6%

How often do you waste yours?

The Philippines is rich in natural resources yet around a quarter of its people are poor; many of them are also food-poorSome Filipinos may not pay attention to how much they waste during meals, but for some families, each grain of rice counts.  

On average, every Filipino wasted 3.29 kilograms of rice per year, according to the Food and Nurtrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology. Imagine how many families could have been fed. 

Northern Samar had the least experience of food wastage, while Masbate experienced the most.

The biggest reasons for food wastage were food left on one’s plate and spoilage. Other reasons include unconsumed leftovers, expiration, food disliked by family members, improper food storage, and preparing more than what was needed. 

The survey was conducted by Laylo Research Strategies from August 16 to September 5, 2015 covering 16 of the country’s poorest provinces. The survey had 1,600 respondents from both rural and urban areas, coming from lower-income households classified under classes D and E. The survey has an error margin of ±2.5%.

As if no one’s hungry

LOSS. The estimated rice wastage in the Philippines in 2008 is 296,869 metric tons, which accounts for 12.2% of the year's rice imports. The loss amounts to P7.3 billion. File photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

Around one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted annually, the Food and Agriculture Organization reported (FAO) in 2013.

Food wastage refers to any food lost by deterioration or waste. It includes both food loss and food waste.
Food loss is the decrease in mass or nutritional value of food.
Food waste is food that is discarded whether or not it is beyond its expiry date.

“This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains,” FAO said. (READ: Think twice before wasting your meal)

Not only does food wastage throw an ironic punch at the world’s hunger issue, it could also harm the environment. FAO highlighted the following overlooked problems:

  • In Asia, wastage of cereals and rice causes a significant problem for the environment, impacting carbon, blue water, and arable land.
  • Meat wastage impacts on the environment in terms of land occupation and carbon footprint. 
  • Fruit and vegetable wastage results in a high carbon footprint due to large wastage volumes.

Among developing countries like the Philippines, food is already wasted even before it reaches one’s plate due to “post-harvest losses.” This results from financial and structural limitations in harvest techniques, storage and transportation, and climatic conditions, according to FAO.

It is the farmers, the country’s leading food producers, who are hit the most with these losses.

But the Philippines is not alone is wasting food. It remains a global problem, costing around $2.6 trillion annually, FAO reported.

“Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world,” FAO added.

Among the surveyed households, the WFP observed that most families experienced post-harvest wastage largely due to calamities. This could mean that there is much to be done in helping farmers prepare, cope, and respond to natural disasters.

Post-harvest wastage among households

(Multiples answers allowed)

Calamities (i.e., typhoons, flood) 32%
El Niño or drought 32%
Pest infestation 24%
Harvest became rotten 6%
Rainy season 5%

Bukidnon and Apayao suffered the most post-harvest wastage caused by calamities at 100% and 88%, while North Cotabato reported the least at only 5%.

Food wastage can be avoided by simply raising more awareness among consumers. Another solution FAO suggested is for markets to coordinate with charities when it comes to redirecting food before it is wasted. 

Lastly, governments are urged to improve and invest on agriculture, especially on post-harvest facilities. This includes developing more farm-to-market roads and other forms of support for agricultural workers. –

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