Foodways Philippines: Hunger

We arrived in Manila on 31 May 2022 to begin work on a new project in the Spatula&Barcode Foodways series. Previous Foodways projects have pursued broad themes such as mobilities, narratives, systems, sustainability, and the pandemic. Foodways Philippines will explore hunger, initially by following some of those who work to address it. 

We are here for the next six months as Distinguished Visiting Professors at De La Salle University, working together with our amazing host and sponsor Jazmin Llana on a series of hunger actions. The impressive array of collaborating groups and organizations include: AJ Kalinga Foundation, Kada Uno Initiative, Center for Social Concerns and Action, Hunger Action Group, Lassallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development Center and the University Social Engagement Fund.  We are also supported by the University of Wisconsin through the WARF graduate school research funds and the UW sabbatical program.

In our sabbatical proposal, we suggest that there is a role for the arts in hunger mitigation.  Because hunger is not a natural but a social and historical fact, our contention is that “if we understand hunger as a failure of imagination (about how society could be shaped), then artists have a crucial role in devising creative and resilient strategies.” 

To define hunger simply as inadequate access to food is to align human life with commodity value; instead, we agree with the hunger action network that the human right to thrive means “a right not just to have access to resources, to be fed, but to exercise their human capacities to produce and create food for themselves and for others.” This helps us to understand that the Foodways framework is, in fact, an appropriate and perhaps useful framework for understanding hunger and efforts to address it. 

Although the explicit focus on hunger is a new one for Spatula&Barcode, we have touched on related issues throughout the Foodways series with considerations of food waste, sustainability, and the pandemic. We come to the project with humility and a desire to learn from our collaborators’ ongoing pragmatic efforts. We  start this project with a set of questions about hunger:

  • What is hunger?
  • Where is hunger?
  • Who is hungry?
  • What are the foodways of hunger? What does it mean for hunger to have foodways?
  • How can / how do the hungry exercise agency?
  • How do experiences of hunger differ?
  • How do hunger mitigation efforts differ? 
  • Should we combat hunger with austerity or plenitude?
  • What does hunger look like and how is it represented? 
  • What does hunger action look like and how is it represented? 
  • What kinds of foods are provided to hungry people? 
  • What cultural activities associated with eating should be part of hunger action?  
  • What is the difference between food and nourishment? 

Our first event was a public virtual lecture for the De La Salle University community, primarily the Art Appreciation classes. The lecture, which provides a comprehensive overview of the Foodways projects to date (Germany, Australia, United States, and Uruguay) can be viewed at this link.

For the next month, we’ll be working with Jazmin on the Performance Studies conference, which will be held online from 6-9 July. Our conference events include the coordination of a keynote panel on Global Action to End Hunger, serving as  interlocutors for a keynote lecture by Richard Gough, showcasing the work to date of our Philippine Hunger Action partners, and hosting a series of virtual receptions. Conference events will be accessible through Whova. We hope you will join us there.

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