Food bank, urban gardening laws remain unimplemented

Mary Ruth R. Malinao (The Freeman) - April 23, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon has urged the executive department to implement the Food Bank and Urban Food Gardening Ordinances of the city.

“To date (despite the urgency for the ordinance to be operational so that none of our brothers and sisters will go to bed hungry), our food bank ordinance remains unimplemented. I am of the conviction that the government has and must take responsibility and should step up because they have all the resources at their disposal and this is a matter of addressing the most basic of necessities,” said Dizon.

Dizon said more Cebuanos have struggled to put food on their table because of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the need among the most vulnerable communities for food security is deepening.

Last year, he authored an ordinance establishing a Food Bank in the City of Cebu, which was passed by the City Council on August 12, 2020 and was approved by Mayor Edgardo Labella on September 1, 2020.

“We introduced the Food Bank Ordinance together with like-minded people from the civil society sector because of that shared vision of a society where no one goes hungry in times of disaster and public health emergency. And also because food banks have proven to be a model that works in other countries in the global fight against hunger and food insecurity,” said Dizon.

Under the measure, the Food Bank shall be managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) and shall adopt both the “frontline” and “warehouse” model.

The frontline model is for the city government to give food directly to the poor and hungry like the community pantries that have emerged now to cope with the crisis or the local government setting up its own community kitchens in communities with high incidence of hunger or to prepare meals for victims of disaster or calamity, said Dizon.

While the warehouse model is to store food and supply them to intermediaries like community kitchens and other relief or humanitarian organizations that are doing hunger-relief assistance.

Dizon also encouraged “good-hearted” Cebuano individuals, families and groups to set up their own community pantries or kindness stations in their sitios and barangays as even the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called on the parishes to set up their own community pantries saying this is one of the most Christian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic to help those who are most in need.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to ravage our economy and has brought high unemployment, and with more people struggling financially and (in) food insecurity, we have witnessed ordinary individuals doing extraordinary grassroots effort to help their neighbors by initiating community pantries.”

“Thus, we express our solidarity to our brothers and sisters who have chosen the path of compassion and kindness in this time of great need,” said Dizon during a privilege speech before the City Council on April 21.

Dizon said the “Project Smile” feeding program, his office’s own version of community pantry, thrives for more than a year already serving hot meals in urban poor communities because there are “kind-hearted people” who make the outreach possible.

Moreover, the City Council also passed last year City Ordinance 2581 also known as “An Ordinance Institutionalizing Urban Food Gardening in the City of Cebu, Appropriating Funds Therefor and For Other Purposes.”

One of the important declared policies of the measure under Section 2 is for the city government to “create greener spaces in our communities to help curb the increasing problem of air pollution which has been proven to have serious consequences on the people’s physical and mental well-being.”

According to Dizon, experts said that this pandemic created a “crisis within a crisis” in which this is compounded by a hunger crisis and left more people weaker and vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last year recorded an estimated 7.6 million Filipino households went hungry due to lack of food especially during the height of the pandemic. As per SWS, the hunger rate soared to as high as 30.7 percent in the third quarter of last year from just 8.8 percent in 2019.

“In times of disaster and public health emergency, addressing the fundamental need for safe, adequate and nutritious food, especially for the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society, is a primary responsibility of the government and this basic need of the people should be urgently met, not as gesture of charity, but as a matter of right,” said Dizon. — KQD (FREEMAN)

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