Community kitchens serve hot meals, show government neglect
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Community kitchens feed hungry people during lockdown
Despite attacks, Filipino women strive to help the poor
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Since the pandemic and the start of closures last year, an estimated 15 million or 62% of families have gone hungry in the Philippines. The Ibon research group said these Filipinos go hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy food, especially for lack of work.
Much like the way Filipinos cope with disasters, during the pandemic the poor are the most vulnerable and largely on their own. The year so far shows that they must demand action from the government to fight the virus and help the people. But while waiting for the stingy and slow help from the government, they must activate their survival mode by pooling their resources to help each other. All this people have to do in the midst of militarist community quarantines. And as they say when it rains, disasters caused by typhoons, earthquakes, farm infestations, among others, have not ceased to plague communities.
Popular organizations, communities and concerned citizens came together to form community kitchens, community pantries and community gardens during the pandemic. These initiatives have naturally gained public support as despite police harassment, arrests and red marking of kitchen and pantry volunteers, self-help initiatives have grown to cover even more areas.
Last year, the government did not finally distribute aid in the locked Metro Manila area until after appeals and criticism mounted. But clearly the aid was too little to really help, as Filipinos continue to resort to social media, community kitchens, pantries and similar efforts to help the hungry and unemployed.
Benefits of mutual aid
Since 2020, among other efforts to overcome containment restrictions, various groups have promoted the Bagsakan program to directly help peasants and urban communities. Bagsakan has enabled farmers to connect with consumers and sell their products competitively, thereby reducing excessive prices for traders.
After the eruption of the Taal volcano, during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses, popular initiatives also abound to pool and bring resources to places unreached by aid and relief. government. There were the Tulong Anakpawis and Bayang Matulungin who encouraged the interaction of farmers and poor urban communities on how they can cooperate directly to put together the necessary relief kits and food. There was the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA), an organized multisectoral national initiative that was first mobilized 15 years ago to help disaster-stricken communities. There is the Lingap Gabriela, the Lingap Kadamay, humanitarian arms of women and poor urban groups.
Here, we’ve followed a few examples of grassroots initiatives, community kitchens and gardens launched since lockdowns began in Metro Manila. Today, these kitchens have served hundreds of thousands of hot and nutritious meals to those who are hungry. But even its volunteers admit that this is not enough. Insight into the functioning of these community kitchens offers inspiration and at the same time, a strong case for stimulus packages, substantial aid and positive government action.
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At the start of the pandemic, residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City, for example, already got rid of themselves by setting up community efforts such as Kusinang Bayan (community kitchens), community pantries, Tanimang Bayan (urban gardening), COVID-19 health response and Eskuwela Maralita. For sustainability, they held a dialogue with the city mayor’s office, who expressed their willingness to partner with the community to develop these programs. But these have yet to bear concrete fruit.
Farmers and fishermen are campaigning for programs that would boost local food production and help farmers and fishermen. They condemned the way the government oversaw huge losses in agriculture due to the adoption of neoliberal policies.
“Luging-lugi na le magsasaka, DA’s inaatupag is the most important import from bansa,” (The country is already losing a lot, but the DA is busy thinking about how it could allow more dumping of imported goods into the country), said KMP President Emeritus Rafael Mariano.
Ayuda needed more than limousines
Groups strive to run community kitchens and pantries as needed and as donations permit, but at the same time, workers and poor urban groups are waging ‘kalampagan’ campaigns, beating pots and pans and empty stoves at the gates of Congress since its resumption on May 17.
On May 15, various groups formed at an online rally called the “Ayuda Network”. They are pressuring Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte to finally endorse a new round of social improvement for families affected by the pandemic.
Bayan Muna’s representative Ferdinand Gaite said Congress had consolidated various “ayuda bills”.
Read: Why the “Ayuda for All” Bill must move forward
Various sectors launched on May 15 what they call an “Ayuda network” to pressure Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte to finally approve the demand for a new round of social improvement for affected families. by the pandemic. Bayan Muna’s representative Ferdinand Gaite said various “ayuda bills” have been consolidated and approved by the lower house’s economic affairs committee.
The main demands of the new network include a grant of P 10,000 for Filipino families, a wage subsidy for workers and small businesses, a farm grant of P 15,000 for the agricultural subsidy, support for health workers, the sector. education and migrants.
“‘Ayuda bills’ are far more important than measures to change the economic provisions of the Charter,” Representative Gaite,
Providing cash assistance will increase household spending and have a positive impact on the economy, said Noel Leyco, former OIC of the Department of Social Protection and Development and now chairman of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. He differentiated “ayuda” from “limousines” or charity, saying it is the government’s mandate to provide aid during calamities and emergencies.
Read: Duterte’s #SONA says nothing about dealing with deadlier COVID-19 variant, worker woes
The Ayuda network is made up of workers, farmers, the unemployed, teachers, students, small business owners, migrants, lawmakers, economists, community pantry organizers, and other affected groups calling for increased government support for the poor during the pandemic.