To stop impoverished Filipinos from eating “pagpag” or “garbage food”, senatorial candidate Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is pushing for the passage of the Food Bank Law, which bans supermarkets, restaurants, and other food shops from throwing away or destroying unsold food, encouraging them instead to donate it to charities and food banks.
“Pagpag” is Tagalog for “to dust off” or “to shake off” usually some fabric, but it has come to mean food taken from trash by the poorest of the poor as a means to survive.
“May hindi tama na sobra-sobra ang pagkain sa isang banda at tinatapon na lang ito o hinahayaang mabulok, samantalang sa isang banda ay may mga kababayan tayong nagugutom at kumakain ng mga tinapon na (There’s something terribly wrong when on the one hand, food is so plenty that the excess is trashed or allowed to rot, while on the other hand, we have countrymen who are hungry and eating food that has been thrown away),” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“Kailangan nating itama ang ganitong maling sitwasyon (We need to correct this situation),” Pangilinan added.
Under his proposed Food Bank Law, grocery stores, fast-food outlets, school and company canteens, bakeries, restaurants, and other food companies are prohibited from throwing away good quality food. They are instead required to “bank” and donate them to charities that feed impoverished people, or else face a penalty.
The proposed measure is meant to encourage donations to charities, said the former senator who is also seeking a third term in the coming May elections.
For their part, charities will be required to collect and stock these food properly and distribute them with “dignity”, and not given as handouts on the streets.
Pangilinan, who owns an organic vegetable farm planted with various organic fruits and vegetables, said his proposed measure is patterned after the recently passed law in France.
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, every Filipino on the average wastes 3.29 kilograms of rice per year. Food waste are those left on one’s plate and become spoiled.
Food is also wasted due to post-harvest losses due to absence of storage and transport facilities.
In 2008, the Philippines’ rice wastage was estimated at 296,869 metric tons, or about 12.2 percent of the year’s rice imports, amounting to P7.3 billion. With this, more than 2 million Filipinos could have been fed.