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How Culinary Heritage Affects Our Views on Food Waste

“Everyone has the right to good, clean, and fair food,” says chef Jam Melchor

Photos by Eszter Biró/Unsplash and courtesy of Slow Food Youth Network Philippines

There is a ridiculous amount of food being wasted every day. In a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 1.3 billion tons of food (or 1/3 of all produced food) are wasted every year worldwide.

Food wastage is categorized into two kinds; the more known category is food waste, which is the food we throw away in the garbage when we’re full, or food that’s discarded because it’s beyond the expiration date but is still fine to consume. Another one is food loss, which is the food that gets thrown away because it’s aesthetically imperfect, and so they never make it to the supermarkets for sale.

Niño Laus and Jam Melchor at World Disco Soup Day Manila 2018

The good news is that there has been a growing awareness on food wastage thanks to the conscious consumers and their shift towards sustainable, healthier food alternatives. Chef Jam Melchor of sustainable diet delivery service YesPlate leads a fine example.

“Food waste and disposal system should be treated as a national concern. It harms agricultural livelihoods and affects food prices, production, and supply—ultimately lowering agriculture’s share in the country’s economy. Poor production may compromise not only the food security of the families of agricultural workers but also the household food security of Filipino consumers.”

Melchor has long been an advocate for the country’s culinary heritage and is also a member of Slow Food Movement. Melchor was one of the participants in the recently-celebrated World Disco Soup Day in Manila, an initiative that started in Berlin six years ago and eventually spread out across the globe. The celebration gathers and makes use of “food waste” and turning them into soup for everyone to share. This is one of the ways the country can reduce waste as well as feed the hungry.

Placing a higher value on food we consume can make us cautious of the waste we produce.

Since food wastage has become a global epidemic, Melchor believes that we can only ease the problem if we start with ourselves and our businesses. “If you’re running a food business, don’t purchase more than what you need and don’t throw away food immediately,” he says. There are many ways of turning leftovers and almost-expired fruits and vegetables into other dishes or beverages. “Be creative in the kitchen. Anything clean can still be eaten or modified.” Donating food and cooking them for sharing to unused commodities are other approaches.

Having been exposed to the culinary heritage of the Philippines, Melchor came to know more about slow food prepared through culinary traditions and eventually supported food waste reduction. Placing a higher value on food we consume can make us cautious of the waste we produce. “Advocating for our culinary heritage and slow food can definitely have a positive impact because it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine as well as encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristics of the local ecosystem. Everyone has the right to good, clean, and fair food. This translates to a high quality product with a flavorful taste; a natural way the product was produced and transported free from chemicals, pesticides, and other toxic inputs; plus adequate pricing and treatment for both the consumers and producers.”

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