Cherry Pie Picache is one of the country’s most sought-after character actresses, but this time, she’s not acting. She’s wearing one of her other hats — that of being ambassador for Oxfam, which has just rolled out its GROW campaign for food security amid climate change.
“I feel strongly about the issue of food waste. There is so much to share, we have so much resources, but many people still end up having nothing!”
Picache is tasked to spread awareness about the many little things people can reduce food waste. “In the end, it’s an issue of how we steward what’s been given to us. We waste our resources because we take it for granted that they are easy to get and they will always be there.”
Consider these statistics: Around 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste each year, causing economic losses of $750 billion, according to Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources, a report launched last week by the United Nations.
Wasted food refers to food that is produced but not eaten.
The report adds that the wasted food uses up “a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land—28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area—is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.”
In the meantime, 870 million people across the globe go hungry every day.
“It’s an affront to the hungry, but it also represents massive environmental cost in terms of energy, land and water,” says UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon.
We don’t have to look far to witness, or experience, food waste. Indeed, small and thoughtful gestures count. Start from your own rice cooker, suggests Picache. “I tell my helper to scrape the ‘tutong’ well because otherwise, you lose spoonfuls of rice that is still good to eat.”
According to the UN report, cereal waste is a significant problem in Asia, composed mostly of rice-eating countries. If just one person wastes three spoons of rice a day, imagine how staggering the aggregate figure is, across a period of, say, one year.
Picache also mentions our penchant for “takaw mata” in ordering food in restaurants, especially the “eat-all-you-can” kind.
“We should not order more than what we can finish. If we can’t, we should have it wrapped and take it home. We can eat it later or give it to others—anything but leave it on the plate because for sure, the restaurant will just throw it away.”
Aside from being conscious about not leaving any food waste, Picache makes sure her household segregates trash and plants a few species in the backyard. “It’s the duty of every Filipino. I mean, how hard can it be?”
Her acting career takes Picache to many places around the country and she has seen, first hand, how hard life is for many Filipinos. She’s fortunate she’s just internalizing their situation to play her role effectively, but they have to live with the reality of scarcity day in and day out.
“The disparity between the rich and the poor in our country is really so big,” she says. “It’s sad because the world is so rich, and yet these things happen because greed takes over, we take more than what we need.”
The GROW campaign, explains Oxfam-Philippines’ Jed Alegado, is an awareness-building campaign that tells people they can contribute in their little ways. Aside from reducing food waste, there are also campaigns for buying local, conserving energy, saving water and eating brown rice (not, per se, for aesthetic purposes).
The campaign is Internet-based http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/what-is-growwhere site visitors can express their commitment to do their bit to make others think of the future, and not just of the present. They are reaching out to those who, like Picache, have the means and capability to raise awareness in their own spheres.
Oxfam is also currently finding ways to partner with dining establishments and local government units to support the campaign to reduce food waste. “It will be so much easier to spread the word if we have them onboard,” says Alegado.
“I am happy to have a job that puts me in a position of influence, so I relay this message” says Picache, who has been in show business for 23 years and who has played numerous memorable roles in movies and television dramas—characters whom many Filipinos recognize and identify with.
“Out of those 23, maybe 10 years are enough for me to be working for myself. How much attention does one person need, anyway?” she asks as she looks over the next table, making sure her 11-year-old son Nio already has his food.
Picache says she is going to a contract-signing event that afternoon—not her own but Nio’s, who is a ranking tennis player about to endorse a popular brand of rackets. She goes on to say how he remains an honor student despite his rigorous sports training, and how he does not need a tutor to help him cope with his assignments.
Mother says the boy likes to read. “I expose him to culture; I bring him to plays. Sometimes I also bring him to my activities for my other advocacies, like for children in conflict with the law, so he is well grounded. He knows what’s important.”
In the end, we’re not just doing this four ourselves, the popular actress says. “The ultimate question is, what will we leave behind for the next generation?”