AFTER observing how people usually buy food more than they can consume and how extra food is usually wasted and ends up in the trash, Angeli V. Guadalupe, M.D., M.S.C. decided to advocate for zero food waste and zero hunger.
She was still a medical student at the University of the Philippines Manila then when she would frequent a 24/7 coffee shop and observed how there were so many excess pastries by the end of the day. Despite the discounted pieces of bread by 8:30 p.m., there was still a lot left. She asked one of the employees about it and was told that they used to donate it but found out it was being sold again by the recipients. Fearing food safety issues would tarnish their name, they were left with no choice but to throw away the excess food, putting soap and water on them to make sure no one resells them.
“This came as an irony for me especially since in the Ermita-Malate area, there are lots of hungry beggars around. In the nearby community of Tondo, cooking “pagpag,” food from garbage that’s been selected and patted dry or dusted off, is also rampant. For me, having both food waste and hunger as problems shows a huge mismatch that should be fixed,” said Guadalupe.
She studied Masters in Sustainability Science at the University of Tokyo not too long after graduation. When she came back to the Philippines, she realized the problem of excess food and hunger among Filipinos is still very much rampant. With a grant, she applied for and won from YSEALI Seeds of the Future, she, together with fellow members of Global Shapers Davao-Hub, decided to found Sureplus.
Sureplus is an online platform that seeks to connect local farmers with consumers. They primarily target is to buy excess food stock from farmers that are still of good quality but may have not passed the premium standards of supermarkets.
“Our first challenge was selling surplus produce--unsold vegetables and fruits that are still edible but have to be eaten within one to three days as they would rot soon. Despite our disclaimers, customers got disappointed as they wanted fresh produce. This made us pivot into selling fresh vegetables and fruits that did not pass physical specifications for supermarkets as well as extra produce observed by farmers or sellers to be slow-moving in sales, hence, are projected to end up as surplus. This made our products of better quality and less cheap but at least customers are now more satisfied,” she said.
Now, they have a working website where consumers can order fruits and vegetables for prices that are much more affordable compared to the supermarkets. They are also looking forward to launching the Sureplus app.
Working closely with local farmers, Guadalupe realized more of their importance in society. She said farmers currently need help with their many problems from land ownership, smart planting, to effective marketing.
“Systemic changes have to be made. It is ironic that they work so hard to provide us essential goods yet they are among those who earn the least. We should remember that in the end, money is useless when we run out of our natural resources. We could not eat paper after all. With this same analogy, farmers deserve more than what they get these days,” she said.
She urged the youth to be more proactive and to make a move in contributing to society. In particular, to help the zero-hunger, zero-waste initiative.. She said the youth can observe a zero-waste lifestyle, educate and raise awareness to others, or eat a plant-based diet.
“With Sureplus, they can help by promoting what we can do so we can capture other farmers in need of help as well as find more potential buyers. In the near future, we also plan to put up food banks and/or community kitchens where they could help in cooking, cleaning, selling and any other task that would help in turning surplus food into meals for the hungry,” said Guadalupe.
On Saturday, October 3, Guadalupe, together with Mel Yan, head of Operations of IISLA Ventures – London, will be speaking for the Zero Waste, Zero Hunger Davao virtual brainstorming forum. Everyone is welcome to be a part of the forum and can pre-register through https://tinyurl.com/y3yb2joc.