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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Small Private Food Pantries Sweep the Philippines

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A study late last month from the University of Hawaii found nearly half of local families with children are suffering from food insecurity. That’s a growing issue as the pandemic continues—and it’s led to a very specific solution in the Philippines—but not from the government.

The idea sounds simple—food for the needy.

But for the government of the Philippines, it’s been difficult to execute.

This week a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said that less than 20% of the approved spending for food assistance in this crisis has been handed out to those who need it.

He says distribution has been complicated by restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

A woman in the Quezon City area of Manila took matters into her own hands last week—setting up a street stall with food—for free--asking people to “give what you can, take what you need.”

Ana Patricia Non told a Filipino television network “I’m tired of complaining. I’m tired of inaction.”

That single food stall got a lot of national publicity—and the concept spread around the country.

The project went viral—and Rappler.com reports it’s been replicated from Luzon to Mindanao.

Some critics falsely linked the actions to communism—and on Tuesday Non shut down her operations due to safety fears for herself and a growing number of volunteers.

The local police chief and the mayor have now publicly praised the food pantry idea—and Non plans to resume her operations today.

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