A Helping of (Food) Justice | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Actress and Oxfam ambassador Cherry Pie Picache serves nutritious mongo with alugbati soup.(photo by Ceres Doyo)
Actress and Oxfam ambassador Cherry Pie Picache serves nutritious mongo with alugbati soup.(photo by Ceres Doyo)

For her French onion soup, Chef Stephanie Zubiri used red onions grown by farmer Ligaya Oria, 68, in Nueva Ecija. Floating on the soup was a piece of toasted pandesal topped with blow-torched native cottage cheese.  Zubiri, 26, trained in France and runs the Modern Epicurean Kitchen.

Chef Sau del Rosario of Le Bistro Vert served alumahan (a kind of local mackerel) maki with sriracha (chili pepper paste), walnuts and apple slivers. The roasted sesame dressing gave the dish a special twist. The common but nutritious alumahan is part of the catch that fisher/farmer Rosario Mendoza of Naic, Cavite often brings home from the sea.

Chef Myke Sarthou brought in slow-roasted honey-glazed pork served with pumpkin puree and bracelets of string beans grown by Nita Oigoan in Rizal. The puree was topped with edible blue ternate petal.  Sarthou’s pork comes from a farm that raises pigs the natural or organic way. Sarthou is chef at a reservations-only, private dining place in Quezon City.

Actress and Oxfam ambassador Cherry Pie Picache served mongo soup with alugbati (Malabar nightshade, a leafy green vegetable), a cheap and easy-to-cook nutritious dish. Her ingredients were grown by Elvie Balalad of Rizal.  The organic brown rice came from Trinidad Domingo of Nueva Ecija.

Vegetable grower Nita Oigoan of Rizal (photo: Veejay Villafranca)

Food growers, food producers, food providers – all of them women – paired up with Manila’s noted chefs at the recent “The Good Food Lunch” hosted by Oxfam-Philippines. Breaking bread at the launch of Oxfam’s food campaign were artists, lovers of food and the planet and civil society groups. Showbiz celeb Marc Nelson emceed the event.

Held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Gardens in Quezon City, the lunch was not just a culinary event; it was a mind-opener that stressed the importance of growing food the right way, in the right places and by the right people to feed an increasingly hungry world.

Sadly, it is these small land holders and food producers in countries rich in natural bounty who often suffer want and hunger because of inequities in the world’s prevailing economic and social systems. Rising food prices, devastating weather changes, political strife and global financial meltdowns conspire and cause a billion people to go hungry.

Aida Fernandez, seaweed farmer in Surigao del Sur (photo:Veejay Villafranca)

And so Oxfam is sounding an urgent call to action: Food justice in a world with limits.

Founded in Great Britain, Oxfam is an international non-government organization working with various groups and communities to end poverty and suffering.

But is the right food to sustain a hungry planet  pleasing to the palate as well?

To taste is to believe, so it was only fitting that Oxfam pushed its worldwide food campaign through a gustatory event. The catch words to remember: “GROW: Food. Life.  Planet.”

Oxfam-UK CEO Dame Barbara Stocking and Oxfam-Hong Kong director general John Sayer opened the photo exhibit “Saganang Amin: Portraits of Women Food Producers” and the press forum on “Food in a World with Limits.”

Nida Risalado, shellfish gatherer from Surigao del Sur (photo: Ceres Doyo)

Curated by Ruel Caasi, with photographs by Veejay Villafranca and text by Rodilyn Abella Bolo and Daryl Leyesa, the exhibit was a tribute to women who are often underrated as food producers. Featured in the exhibit were Aida Fernandez, seaweed farmer, Surigao del Sur; Nida Rizalado, shellfish gatherer, Surigao del Sur; Ligaya Oria, onion farmer, Nueva Ecija; Nita Oigoan, vegetable grower, Rizal; Rosario Mendoza, fisher, Cavite; and  Trinidad Domingo, rice farmer, Nueva Ecija.

Trining Domingo (right), organic rice farmer from Nueva Ecija (photo: Veejay Villafranca)

The forum held as “aperitif” to lunch explained the necessity of the Good Food lunch.  As Oxfam described it, “Our broken food system cannot feed the world in this new age of crisis. Decades of slow progress in the fight against hunger have been swung into reverse. Growing hunger, obscene waste, rising and volatile food prices, environmental destruction and the scramble to buy up land across the developing world are symptoms of a food system in chaos.”

As the forum speakers explained: “As natural resources become increasingly scarce, and climate change brings extreme and erratic weather, feeding the world will get harder still. Oxfam’s GROW campaign is calling for a radically new approach to the way we grow, share and manage food and other natural resources. Business as usual is not the answer.”

Chef Stephanie Zubiri with Nueva Ecija onion farmer Ligaya Oria (photo: Ceres Doyo)

A grim food scenario, indeed.  But solutions should not be hard to come by. (See sidebar) Women are a big part of the solution. Life givers and nurturers, they rock the cradle and the world and are key to feeding a hungry planet.

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