A Better Normal: How We Can Feed Urban Poor Communities
“This kind of overwhelming solidarity that’s happening right now should only make things better for us in the future,” says agroecology advocate and urban poor rights activist Terence Lopez. “When they say the new normal, we can also say a better normal.”
Lopez is a member of the educational committee of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay, one of the many organizations around the country providing relief and donating food to the communities worst affected by the COVID crisis. Kadamay is a national alliance of different poor relief organizations founded in 1998 and has been championing urban poor rights such as jobs, livelihood, wages, land, and housing.
The donations and support shown by private citizens and organizations are the greatest sources of hope for the urban poor, who have little to no opportunity to work or put food on the table. After this crisis is over, Lopez hopes these social initiatives and widespread acts of kindness continue well into the future and helping in-need communities will become the new normal.
During the Luzon enhanced community quarantine, Lopez and his colleagues are concerned with the disrupted supply chains that should be delivering food to poor communities. Through relief operations and initiatives such as Lingap Maralita and The Vegan Neighbors, Kadamay members have been working with farmers to bring vegetables into Metro Manila and going around the streets on bicycles to provide packed food for the homeless and in the poorest communities.
“In any community, we go to we get a similar mood, similar feelings. They feel worse now. Even without the crisis they are vulnerable. But even more so right now,” says Lopez. “Most of them have no other option but to wait for relief.”
One of the biggest challenges facing relief efforts is the restricted mobility for food delivery services. Lopez fears for the safety and wellbeing of relief workers themselves, especially after the recent news that food donation volunteers were arrested in Bulacan for allegedly violating quarantine protocols. “These people, like us, are also providing relief and services and social solidarity in this time of crisis,” he says. “We realize it could be us, it could happen to us.” Kadamay has a chapter in Bulacan and often sends relief workers there to source vegetables.
“The government should be thankful that there are so many people helping the poor and underprivileged, regardless of their political affiliations,” says Lopez. As a state of emergency is also a state of emergence, this crisis could hopefully see the emergence of a kinder and more charitable future in the Philippines. Relief workers such as Lopez are grateful for the support they are getting from volunteers and donors. “Private citizens and the private sector have been doing a lot,” he says. “That’s the reason why we’re getting by in this crisis. People are actually acting and helping each other.”