No money or ‘no way’ for rice alternatives?

One of my most rewarding researches was on food security and Bridging Leadership with SeaOil Foundation where I had the privilege to talk with Galing Pook Awardee mayor, Jun Pacalioga of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur. While focused on growing organic rice, Mayor Jun was also busy looking at how to shift the mindset of his constituents that the latter will also consider alternatives such as bread, rootcrops, corn and banana, among others. But, is a “mind shift” possible?

Rice is a staple food in the Philippines and is a fundamental part of Filipino food and culture for centuries. As such, it can be challenging for Filipinos to shift to possible rice alternatives having been ingrained in the dietary habits and cultural heritage. To add, rice is also available compared to grains, rootcrops and starchy vegetables.

Third, many Filipinos are not also aware of alternative foods that can be used in place of rice. Information and education campaigns are lacking about the nutritional benefits of alternative foods, making it difficult for people to make informed dietary choices.

Others also claim that they gain more energy when they eat rice compared with rootcrops or even the saba variety of banana. Indeed, rice is a good source of carbohydrates and provides more energy per serving than sweet potatoes or cassava, and contains all essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly.

Most of all, rice is relatively cheap compared to rootcrops even if the promise of President Bongbong Marcos of a 20-peso rice per kilo still remains a promise. The current price of white rice is around PhP38 to PhP 60 while cassava and sweet potato ranges from PhP60 to PhP120. Saba, meanwhile, ranges from PhP 35 to PhP 70.

With the Ruso-Ukranian war, the price of flour remains high that eating bread is sometimes a luxury.

Corn, too, is a very good alternative but is not always available. The most hyped corn-rice are only available in select markets in Mindanao and is still an “alien” in Luzon. The same with vegetables like cauliflower which is very seasonal making cauliflower rice appearing only on the plates of mid-end to high-end hotels.

Apart from the price, rice can also be cooked in a number of ways — among them, lugaw or congee so that a kilo can serve a number of people or last for a few meals.


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