ELEVENTH HOUR: Food Today, Food Tomorrow, Makisawsaw, and climate action

Published December 30, 2021, 2:38 PM

by Climate Reality Project Philippines

Food Today, Food Tomorrow (FTFT) began as a food relief initiative in the early days of extreme enhanced community quarantine. Initially named Lingap Maralita (Care for the Poor), it was motivated by collective action and mutual aid.  It was a call for solidarity with those often excluded or marginalized from public assistance—informal wage earners, street dwellers, landless peasants—therefore without the safety nets to survive the severe impacts of the lockdown.

The community kitchens were intensely nostalgic, as we in the program coordination team discovered. It was not just about cooking and distributing food; it was also about sharing stories, having a laugh, relationship building, developing community leaders, and collective empowerment.

While charity is often conceived in terms of a beneficiary–benefactor relationship, Lingap Maralita takes the view that everyone is valuable and has something to offer. The poor, despite their poverty, were not mere beneficiaries.

As we sourced fresh organic vegetables from small farmers and brought those to urban poor communities in Metro Manila, beneficiary communities organized and led the weekly kusinang bayan (community kitchens) to mitigate the growing hunger around them.

This spirit of care and solidarity resonated with many people. Stories and testimonies from urban poor communities and citizen groups exposed how multiple issues on food security, social justice, and equal access impact the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Food Today, Food Tomorrow (FTFT) is our sustainable, rights-based food security initiative that supports the work of community kitchens and grows agroecological food gardens.

It was also during Lingap Maralita’s run that Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Mamamayan-Payatas approached us in the core group and expressed their interest in a more sustainable way to secure food: growing it themselves.

After that, the two-pronged FTFT program was born. Shaped by consultations with the communities and partner organizations, FTFT combines the previous food relief model “Food Today” (which aims to immediately address hunger) with the micro food gardens “Food Tomorrow” (which aims to address food insecurity).

Piloted in November 2020 in Payatas, 20 volunteer urban growers co-designed a community-based food security strategy. Today, some of these farmers are now trainers in the replication site in Bagong Silangan, where they share their experience and empower other members of the community to do the same.

Makisawsaw Recipes x Ideas: The Community Gardens Edition, which was edited by Joyce Santos, Carissa Pobre, and yours truly and published in November 2021 by feminist independent publisher Gantala Press, supports the work of FTFT.

The book builds on the concept of sawsawan (condiments) used to customize a dish to one’s taste. The book was published after a condiment-making event, where concerned citizens met with workers who participated in a strike calling out the unjust labor practices of NutriAsia, one of the biggest manufacturers of some of the Philippines’ top sawsawan brands. Sawsaw also connotes “dipping” into or participating in affairs or conversations that are not in one’s usual sphere. It’s a foot in. Makisawsaw, now a series of books responding to issues on food, is an invitation to engage with the political nature of food and a tool to raise funds in solidarity with the plight of those most vulnerable to systemic injustice and social inequality.

The Makisawsaw Community Book Launch was held last Nov. 27, 2021 at the Solidarity Garden, Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. The book draws much inspiration from produce that can be grown in community gardens just like the Food Tomorrow gardens in Payatas and Bagong Silangan that organically grow eggplant, ampalaya, tomatoes, and more.

With over 70 plant-based recipes, using accessible ingredients, the book also contains stories that remind us how cooking is a shared experience. Contributors include award-winning chefs, urban poor growers from the community, and food justice activists.

The book touches on the vital importance of community-shared, organic, and in-season agriculture that restores and cares for the land and shows that consumers can be co-producers of our food, helping address the climate crisis in many ways. It is a reminder of the basic yet potent form of power we all have: our ability to choose, not only where and how we spend our time and money but also how we choose to align ourselves in terms of social and political action.

The book calls on people to start with their own produce and kitchen staples. It suggests that we actively seek out, buy from, and recommend growers and enterprises, particularly small farmers and producers, who have made real commitments to addressing issues on food and climate change through regenerative, locally driven, and place-based agricultural practices. This not only supports these businesses to keep up this good work but also shows other sectors of society that business-as-usual will no longer cut it.

As highly industrialized countries continue to build their economies on the back of fossil fuels, those who have done the least to cause environmental damages are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts. They are the most vulnerable in the face of changing weather patterns and rising sea levels, causing violent storms and floods that result in greater food shortages and making already dire living conditions worse.

This injustice makes it clear that advocating for the rights of the most vulnerable to clean food, safe water, and shelter is part of climate action, which I am humbled to take on as part of the FTFT’s core group.

About the author

One of the founding members of Slow Food Sari-sari, Karla Rey is a Climate Reality Leader who believes that stories shared over good food with great company are essentials to a happy life. As Mabi David’s partner in Me and My Veg Mouth and a certified plant-based cook, Karla hopes to contribute to changing the perception that eating vegetables is boring and expensive.

Karla is one of the co-owners of Lubihan Siargao. Along with other Siargao groups and organizations, she is organizing relief efforts for the victims of Typhoon Odette. For anyone who is interested to help, she may be reached at [email protected].