The oft-quoted phrase “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” has little relevance during this pandemic and the succeeding lockdown that brought hunger to the most vulnerable.
With more people going hungry, the situation calls for direct interventions: spoon-feeding and doleouts, all unsavory terms to a world trained how to fish and compete.
In April 2020, several non-profit groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) formed the COVID-19 Civil Society Sector Organizations (CSO) & Private Sector Coalition (or NGO Collab).
From April to May 2020, the NGO Collab conducted a survey on food and cash aid received during the quarantine among representatives of 141 barangays across seven priority cities in Metro Manila. According to 62 percent of respondents, the food packs they received were insufficient for their family’s needs.
The Kabuhayan sa Ganap na Kasarinlan Credit and Savings Cooperative (K-Coop)—a microfinance institution that is part of the NGO Collab—also did a rapid survey on the impact of the pandemic among its members in urban poor communities.
Of the survey’s 3,296 respondents, 75% said they lost their source of income, while 21% said that their income was reduced due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, 87% of the respondents said they are not able to meet their needs. Most of the micro-entrepreneur members of K-Coop are owners and operators of karinderyas.
The strategy was to feed the most vulnerable and at the same time save the lowly and slowly fading karinderyas affected by the pandemic.
When the findings were discussed at the NGO Collab, fellow member Bayanihan Musikahan came up with the concept to keep the karinderyas alive and help distribute food in urban poor communities.
Bayanihan Musikahan invited Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) to help develop the idea further given the latter’s breadth of experience in efficiently managing food service systems through its Busog, Lusog, Talino (BLT) School Feeding Program. K-Coop readily offered to pilot the approach in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, which is one of the most populous barangays in Metro Manila.
While the immediate goal was to feed hungry stomachs of the most vulnerable, the project must also ensure that karinderyas are taught how to run their food stalls efficiently and thrive during and even after the pandemic on their own merit.
“Communities have existing systems to deal with the challenges they face. The role of outside groups such as JGF, KDCI [Kasagana-ka Development Center, Inc.], and even K-Coop should be to help enhance or strengthen these systems rather than imposing new ones that tend to disrupt if not displace traditional coping mechanisms,” said K-Coop General Manager Maria Ana de Rosas-Ignacio.
“Karinderyas in urban poor communities are ideal partners in making safe and well-prepared meals easily accessible to families suffering from hunger brought about by the pandemic.”
And Project Karinderya was borne, but the project was time-bound. Karinderyas must learn to do it on their own after the 30-day period.
Under this initiative, every karinderya that is part of the project serves meals to 20 families in their community for a period of 30 days. Families receive vouchers which they use to claim the food from the karinderyas. K-Coop and its affiliate, KDCI, screen the participating karinderyas and also select the beneficiary families most in need in the community.
“Aside from ensuring food access in depressed communities, the hope is for Project Karinderya to help ensure that local economic activities in the target communities can continue, especially as these karinderyas have had to stop their operations when the lockdowns were put in place,” said Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) Executive Director Ma. Gisela Tiongson.
JGF provided Karinderya participants trainings on food preparation, food safety, and customer service, among others, as part of the project. The trainings have further empowered and capacitate karinderya owners.
The pilot project was in Calawis, Antipolo supported by Rotary Club of Makati San Lorenzo. Another pilot led by the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilyang Pantawid (SNPP) continued to be supported by Bayanihan Musikahan, Philippines Business for Social Progress, and Jollibee Group Foundation. Consuelo Foundation and Peace and Equity Foundation have each funded a project site in Bulacan and Quezon City, respectively.
“The training was a huge help because I did not study how to cook. I have learned the proper ways of managing a karinderya),” said Jessie Seno, a karinderya owner who benefitted from the project in Batasan, Quezon City, said in Tagalog.
“Before this project, I still had food to sell by 2 p.m. Now, by midday, my food is sold out. Through this project, I am able to earn more, despite the COVID pandemic).”
As of November 2020, the “Project Karinderya,” has served 30-day meal subsidies in the form of meal vouchers to 1,000 families through 50 karinderyas. Currently, 240 more karinderyas are providing meals to 4,800 families until December.
The expansion was made possible with the support of Singapore-based Temasek Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the DEG (German Investment Corporation). Both international agencies provided grants for the meal subsidy of family beneficiaries.
Project Karinderya continues to pursue its goal: to feed the most vulnerable and teach the micro food vendors become sustainable.