By JAMES TABABA
In a significant step towards combating food waste and addressing food insecurity, Scholars of Sustenance (SOS), a global food rescue foundation, organized the Zero Summit Philippines on August 8, 2023. This event brought together leaders from the food industry and sustainability advocates to deliberate upon strategies for reducing food waste and eliminating hunger. With the theme “Zero to Hero,” this summit aimed to foster collaboration among academia, business, civil society, and government to achieve the ambitious goal of zero food waste and zero hunger by 2030.
Established in 2016, Scholars of Sustenance (SOS) is an international foundation dedicated to food rescue, with operations spanning Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. SOS’s overarching goal is to optimize the food system within each country, curbing the avoidable wastage of excess food and promoting fair food distribution. This is accomplished through the redistribution of consumable surplus food sourced from various food-related enterprises, including hotels, grocery stores, eateries, food manufacturers, and other suppliers, all aimed at supporting undernourished communities in the Philippines.
Bo Holmgreen, the Founder and CEO of SOS, expressed his excitement about the summit, highlighting that zero food waste is a lofty yet crucial objective. “What better goal to strive for than zero? Zero food waste will make both the environment and a lot of hungry people happier,” Holmgreen said. Holmgreen anticipates that the event’s speakers will inspire innovation, encourage partnerships, and acknowledge the dedicated efforts of SOS staff in making a substantial global impact.
“There is an abundance of food available, and our mission at SOS is to ensure it reaches those in need,” said James Leyson, SOS Managing Director for the Philippines and Thailand. “Reducing food waste and alleviating hunger requires a multifaceted restructuring of the entire food system, from production and distribution to consumption.”SOS’s endeavors in the Philippines since October 2022 have yielded progress, including the rescue and donation of 148,728 total kilograms of food, translating to 625,300 equivalent meals served to communities in need. Moreover, these efforts have led to the reduction of 363,825 total kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent, contributing significantly to environmental preservation.
SOS recognizes the power of collaboration in achieving its goals. Partnerships with key sectors such as retail, hospitality, food & beverage, and manufacturing have been instrumental in ramping up advocacy and food rescue programs.
The Quezon City local government, led by Mayor Ma. Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, takes pride in being a vital partner in the effort to enhance food access for Filipino families. Up to this point in the year, the city has established 754 urban gardens and farms. These initiatives yield a diverse array of vegetables, notably green and leafy varieties grown in the city.
Mayor Belmonte shared, “Since 2010, urban agriculture has been a core initiative to strengthen grassroots food security and make healthy food available to those in need.” The city has also taken a significant step by implementing the country’s first healthy food procurement policy. This policy ensures that public funds are spent only on nutritious food.
Allianz PNB Life, a global partner in ending hunger, plays a pivotal role in the fight against food waste. Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Gino Riola expresses their dedication to a sustainable future through solutions for food production. Allianz’s partnership with SOS Thailand led to the launch of the first cloud food bank platform in the country.
Yvonne Flores, Head of Sustainability at the Gokongwei Group, highlights their shared mission with SOS Philippines to create a compassionate future where hunger is eradicated, and resources are used wisely. The group’s brands, including Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. and Universal Robina Corporation, contribute by donating safe and edible surplus food to SOS for distribution to vulnerable communities.
The Zero Summit initiative started in Thailand in 2021 and has since gained momentum, bringing stakeholders together to discuss food waste’s ecological and socio-economic implications. These events have raised funds to provide meals to vulnerable communities, fostering a sense of responsibility and unity. Through the united efforts of stakeholders, promoting collaborative efforts, and inspiring innovation, this event hopes for a future with zero waste and zero hunger.