Home-cooked meals were the norm during the pandemic, but these are now increasingly more difficult to prepare due to the resumption of economic activity. This is especially true for two-income families that are falling back into the habit of buying takeout food or eating out. Low-income families have gone back to patronizing their favorite carinderias or eateries, where food is cheaper compared to those sold by restaurants.
What makes it more practical for families to purchase prepared meals is the fact that LPG and fresh ingredients have become more expensive. Buying cooked meals is more cost-efficient, particularly for those that no longer have the time to go to the wet market and cook. Choosing the right ingredients alone takes up time, and cooking for a family of five, for example, can be taxing for those who must travel to their offices in central business districts and clock in eight hours a day.
Take-out food is not all that bad, especially if one has the means to purchase tasty and healthy food. Unfortunately, when time and resources are limited, people turn to processed food or microwave ready meals to feed themselves and their families. While these products can satisfy hunger, these items do not have the nutritional value required by children and adults. This trade-off is something that has become acceptable for many consumers and has led to the continued growth of quick-service restaurants.
One of the ways by which Filipino families could improve their access to nutritious food is to enable them to easily procure these items from gardens within their community. Lawmakers and policymakers have been talking about it for years and yet efforts to increase the number of these gardens has been progressing at a snail’s pace. (See, “Solons: Expand Pinoys’ access to healthy food,” in the BusinessMirror, November 27, 2023). Only a few cities in the National Capital Region have managed to set up their own community gardens and it remains to be seen whether this could really benefit the entire community.
Now that new barangay officials have been elected, they should consider including the establishment of these gardens in their priority programs. Each barangay gets a share of the budget of its parent local government unit every year and they also get funds for their projects. It would not take much to put up these urban farms where their constituents could purchase cheap vegetables, which could also beef up their income.
A report released by Unicef last March revealed that children are eating fewer fruits and vegetables, and more sugar, salty and fatty products, which are readily available to them and are cheaper than healthy options. Reversing this trend and achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating malnutrition by 2030 would require extra effort to expand Filipinos’ access to healthy food. It would do well for the national government to reach out to communities and work in tandem with them to promote programs seeking to eliminate malnutrition and prevent stunting among children.