Data Privacy

Here at World We Want, we value data privacy and are committed to keeping whatever information you share with us secure. By continuing to browse our site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

For more information please click on the Data Privacy Policy of our parent company, San Miguel Corporation.

In a world of plenty, hunger still needs solving

San Miguel Pure Foods is leading the corporation’s charge and partnering with organizations to fight hunger and limit food waste.

Let us begin with a fact: the world is not overpopulated. The problem isn’t too many people.

Yet one could be forgiven for assuming it was — that there are too many mouths to feed, given that according to the FAO World Food Insecurity Report, 14.2 million Filipinos lived undernourished from 2015 to 2017. Children aren’t safe from mass hunger either — in fact they are the most affected, the most vulnerable. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute emphasizes that undernutrition among children under five years old is still a major public health problem. In the National Capital Region, 15.1% of children that age and younger are underweight, while 24.9% are underheight. A single digit figure would already be too much, and yet, according to the International Rice Research Institute, Filipinos waste 308,000 tons of rice every year. Metro Manila alone produces 2,175 tons of food waste everyday, according to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.

The problem isn’t too many people. It’s that food isn’t going to the places where it’s needed most.

Everyone needs to do their part solving hunger, especially the big players. “San Miguel Pure Foods is just one company involved in food, and there are so many players in this industry,” says San Miguel Purefoods President and Chief Operating Officer, Francisco S. Alejo III. "If all of these players can just get together then I think we can significantly reduce the food wastage in our country.”

Francisco S. Alejo III, president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Pure Foods, recognizes the seriousness of hunger and malnutrition. “What we lack is really the mechanism to be able to distribute products to those who are in need,” he says. What we have instead are factors that complicate the process of getting the food to the people, such as inventory management, the challenge of forecasting and pinpointing how much to supply to a specific demand without going overboard, and the Maximum Age of Acceptance rule, which prevents supermarkets from stocking products nearing the end of its shelf life.

Running a company like San Miguel Pure Foods also takes a lot of plate-spinning, and operations like these have lots of moving parts. On food sustainability, SMPF Brand and Business Cluster Head, Rita “Tatish” Palabyab says, “What resources are we using to produce food? You have land, water, raw materials, all of this. So the program really is to always use resources optimally.” How do you do that: sustain a business, and sustain the nation’s most vulnerable at the same time?

These are not mutually exclusive goals, which is why San Miguel Pure Foods places a specific importance of reducing food wastage as much as possible. There’s the company’s nation-wide corporate social responsibility program, Handog Lusog, a feeding program carried out over a period of six months which aims to care for malnourished children while monitoring their weight and other aspects of their health. In the four years since the program was launched in 2015, San Miguel Pure Foods has fed over 6,000 children. The company is also partnering with Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit which aims to distribute food to the impoverished and vulnerable.

There is also the SMC Better World Community Center, a project which will involve building a site in Tondo dedicated specifically to nutrition and education. As an initiative, its goal is not just to efficiently produce and distribute food that would otherwise rot away on supermarket shelves, but also teach Filipinos how to be responsible, mindful consumers.

Rita "Tatish" Palabyab, San Miguel Purefoods' Brand and Business Cluster Head, believes solving food waste and food insecurity needs to happen from the very start. "“What resources are we using to produce food? You have land, water, raw materials, all of this. So the program really is to always use resources optimally.”

Cynics might say that such altruistic initiatives do nothing for profit, but they do. If the goal of a company is to optimize and streamline its processes and resources, then isn’t the end goal making sure to feed as many people as possible? The point is to let nothing go to waste. Everyone wins. And if food does end up going to waste? Well, as Palayab puts it, with striking urgency, “I grew up learning that one grain of rice that you leave on your plate is 10,000 days in purgatory. That’s how I think. I really don’t want things to go to waste.”

Both Alejo and Palabyab believe that the problem of food wastage is an uphill battle. Still, they know concerted efforts should still be done to combat it, and establishments such as Manila Diamond Hotel, a leading player in the hotel industry, are following suit. Florie Delos Santos faces unique challenges as the hotel’s Hygiene and Sanitation Manager — part of her job means making sure that food is always served fresh. “At the end of the day, the objective is basically to come up with safe food,” she says. That makes reducing food wastage difficult though, especially when you’re preparing it for potentially wasteful guests. Still, the hotel is taking measures such as training staff to properly handle food, making efforts to pinpoint the sweet spot between supply and demand,and utilizing and repurposing ingredients in storage.

“I think part of the problem is that people don’t really see the true cost of food. And when food is thrown away, part of what gets thrown away too is what was invested to produce it, the water, the grazing land, the efforts of the farmers or the growers,” Delos Santos says, echoing Palayab regarding the interconnectedness of some of the drivers behind the food and hospitality industries. “These things all around us, they are also affected, even though we cannot measure it in terms of cost.”

Florie Delos Santos, Manila Diamond Hotel's Hygiene and Sanitation Manager, sees information and education as a way of limiting waste. "“I think part of the problem is that people don’t really see the true cost of food," she says. “These things all around us, they are also affected, even though we cannot measure it in terms of cost.”

Yes, there are simple things we can do to be responsible consumers, whether it be finishing our food or properly storing leftovers. But there’s an opportunity and a responsibility for big companies like San Miguel Pure Foods to do the heavy lifting.

Still, even a food industry giant that powerful can’t do the work alone. “San Miguel Pure Foods is just one company involved in food, and there are so many players in this industry,” Alejo says, emphasizing that “if all of these players can just get together then I think we can significantly reduce the food wastage in our country.” Because at the end of the day, the thing most at stake with issues of food wastage and distribution are the hungry. “I think it’s not just a concern of the food companies, although we are the ones who will be directly involved,” Palayab states. “It should really be a universal concern to solve the twin issues of hunger and food waste and to help the rest of our country, particularly those who may not be as fortunate as we are.” The problem is not too many people or too many cooks spoiling the broth; those who are fighting to end hunger could use a few more players on its team.

Related Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unexpected heroes

Learn More

SMC's Ramon Ang on business, sustainability and the common good

Learn More

Manabu Farms, enhancing the smallholder supply chain

Learn More

Linking the backyard economy to the formal market economy

Learn More

View More Stories