The importance of choosing good food choices

By Jessica Pag-iwayan

The growing Philippine population and rapid inflation spike greatly affect the prices of basic Filipino commodities. This reminds to start embracing sustainable consumption and production in our daily lives.

This was emphasized by Jose Palma, CEO and president of World Wide Fund for Nature  (WWF) – Philippines during the third leg of the organization’s Sustainable Diner campaign. This project was launched last year and is designed “to champion the concepts of sustainable consumption and production. They are the key drivers to achieving the balance between the socio-economic growth of the country as well as the protection of our natural resources and food security.”  https://wwf.org.ph/what-we-do/food/thesustainablediner/

Jose Palma

“What you see in the paper right now is high inflation, which is the 6.4 percent. But you know what’s driving the inflation is the availability of food. If you’d seen the inflation rates per region, you’ll be surprised, the average is 6.4, but there are places that are just at 4.2. And these places are ones where we have lot of food. These are the rice granaries of the Philippines,” Palma says. “So it boils down to consumption, and production.”

On its third phase titled “Savour Planet: Cooking with a Purpose” held at Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay recently, WWF invited select members of the media to show them how the foundation works toward achieving its goals.

Zero waste cooking

Our country has a population of roughly 106 million and is expected to reach 107 M by the end of 2018, according to Commission on Population (PopCom). Out of these numbers, 27 million live below the poverty line. Sadly, despite this challenge, Filipinos still waste up to 308,000 tons of rice annually. Metro Manila residences alone throw away 2,175 tons of food daily.

“Another fact, ⅓ of the food produced globally is wasted, so that’s about 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year. By 2030, if we don’t do anything about this, the world’s annual food waste can increase to 2 billion tons,” said Palma.

With that, WWF partnered with The Healing Kitchen for a cooking session. Delegates were divided into groups and were taught to cook different dishes such as Bruschetta, Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup, Roasted Vegetable Salad, Tanigue with Dill, Mango Buko Sundae, and Pandan Ice Cold Drink. 

Some of the dishes created by the delegates.

What made the program more exciting was its farm-to-table concept, where participants got the herbs they needed directly from the chef’s garden. And to achieve the zero waste, everyone was also encouraged to use every part of the fruits and vegetables. Sweet Potato peels were turned into delicious chips, other peels were used to enhance the taste of vegetable broth, while seeds like tomato and bell pepper were thrown directly into the garden for them to take root and grow.

By providing this wonderful experience, WWF-Philippines aims to instill “a renewed appreciation for the basic food systems that have nourished generations upon generations of Filipinos.”

A nurturing village

Nurture Wellness Village, the venue for the third leg, has the same philosophy as WWF. This establishment is accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT), was named one of the 28 Most Relaxing Spas in Asia, and is a proud member of Zero Carbon Resorts.

“Nurture Wellness Village has always embraced environmental protection as a guiding philosophy. Our restaurants serve vegetables from its own organic garden which uses compost from our kitchen fertilizer,” says Leslee Benitez, operations manager of the resort.

Aside from their farm-to-table organic food choices, another remarkable thing about the village is their “Farmacy.” Combining “farm” and “pharmacy,” it is a 6,000-square-meter plot of land. It is a farm mainly composed of medicinal plants and a wellness resort. With the goal to educate their guests about the specific use of local herbal plants, a big portion of the farm’s land is designed after human systems. 

In each system, you will find the right plants you need to cure ailments or to improve the function of a specific body part. For example, at the Nervous system section, visitors can find thyme, lettuce, eggplant, kale, ginseng, holy basil, and peanuts. These plants help improve one’s memory and sharpen the mind. The other systems that can be found are the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, integumentary, and excretory system. 

One of the goals of WWF is to educate their guests about local herbs.

The whole Farmacy is maintained organically. Food waste from the kitchen scraps undergoes the natural process of Bokashi composting, which breaks down biodegradable waste in an odorless procedure. The end product of this process is a nutritious, natural fertilizer for the whole farm (http://agriculture.com.ph/2017/11/16/bokashi-is-a-fuss-free-composting-system-perfect-for-the-urban-gardener/ ). Aside from this, the village further amplifies their organic way of fertilizing plants by populating African Night Crawler (Eudrilus euginiae). A species of earthworm popular to vermicomposters, and is considered as the most efficient composting earthworm in the tropical regions because of its potential to break down organic materials.

The campaign and the Village’s way of taking care of their surrounding aim to remind every one of the importance of going back to basics. From agricultural farming of growing medicinal plants to use as a cure for different types of illness instead of taking synthetic medicine, to giving value to the food we eat knowing the process it went through before it goes to our plates. By doing this, the organization hopes to help Filipinos better appreciate our culture and heritage, and to help them make holistic choices for their overall health and wellness.

The delegates who participated in WWF’s sustainable diner.

“A sociologist friend of mine once told me that a hundred years ago, we Filipinos ate vegetables, beans, and grains. Somehow, because of our colonial history, our diets changed. Being sustainable, for us, is actually going back to basics. We were like that before and we can do that again now,” Palma ends.

For more information about WWF and the Nurture Village visit wwf.org.ph, or nurturewellnessvillage.com