WITH a handful of food items in a bamboo cart, Ana Patricia Non started a community pantry at Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village in Quezon City on April 14, 2021. Soon after, hundreds of community pantries were set up all over the country, taking inspiration from what Ms. Non has started. It has become a movement of sort. I call this the miracle of the multiplication of the bread in modern times.

Donations from a community pantry will provide food on the table for a day or two. How can we give something that will last a little longer? There is a way but it requires a little effort from the beneficiaries. I’m thinking of giving seedlings or seeds so that people can grow their own food.

The place will be called “community pan-tree.” It has a similar set-up except that instead of food, the carts will have seedlings of vegetables and fruit bearing trees. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already conducted a community pan-tree last April 22, 2021 during Earth Day, 2021 with the slogan “Magtanim ayon sa kakayahan, umani ayon sa pangangailangan.”

Suggested veggies are pechay, okra, eggplants and tomatoes because they are easy to grow. They can even be grown in pots or repurposed plastic containers for those who do not have space. I recommend also grafted calamansi which will provide a supply of natural Vitamin C all year round. Fast growing fruit trees like papaya would be good to have as it can be eaten green (for tinola). Jackfruit, avocado and mango seedlings can given too for the post-pandemic future.

During the strict lockdown last year, it was very difficult to go to the market. Backyard vegetable gardens and fruit trees were a major source of food. Now that things have eased up, backyard farming is still recommended as it provides fresh, organic and free source of food. Prices of vegetables are going up so it’s a practical thing to do as well.

Other than vegetable and fruit trees, seedlings for native forest trees and ornamental plants can also be donated at the community pan-tree. Planting trees now is a gift, a legacy, for the future generations. Trees give off oxygen, provide shade and clean the air of Carbon Dioxide. It is a home for birds and other species too.

I am emphasizing here the donation of native trees like balacat, betis, dapdap, dao, narra and calumpit. These endemic and native species are well suited to our local conditions. They provide shelter and food for native birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Our cities, town and villages were even named after them. They are also endangered. Did you know that our national tree, narra, is listed as among the endangered native trees by the DENR?

It’s rainy season, the best time to plant trees. Last June 25 was Arbor Day, a day for tree planting. By the way, the planting of at least one tree for all able-bodied Filipino citizens 12 years old and above is actually required based on Republic Act 10176, the Arbor Day Act of 2012.