TAGUM CITY FOOD BANK
FEEDING THE MALNOURISHED CHILDREN OF MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES
David Wasson, an award winning Seattle chef and cooking instructor, left his successful career in 2008 to retire in the Philippines, where he expected to lead a peaceful and quiet existence.
After moving to Mindanao (which is considered dangerous even by Filipino standards), He was invited to a “Thanksgiving” celebration at Purok Garciaville. He was struck by the weight of the children, and in speaking with the Barangay Health Worker, He began to see some serious problems that are not always so obvious. Yes, the children are happy, clean, mostly well dressed and not usually “looking” distressed – but looks, in Mindinao, are quite deceiving.
He saw a society that was struggling. Schools here, including the public schools, cost the parents money. It is not uncommon for a family to have as many as 9 children, so school, any medical care, and food are often “divided” among the children. The main deficiency is their weight, because these children don’t get to eat every day. I use the BMI index to classify the children as officially malnourished, which just means they are so skinny and underweight that their brains and bodies won’t develop normally. It’s really very dangerous for their (our) future. He found that life didn’t oblige his expectations. Food — something most of us easily find steps away, in our kitchens or in favorite restaurants, is a scarce commodity in Mindanao, where he decided to make his home. Wasson observed families living in poverty, who had no access to nutritious food, and in many cases, could not afford to feed their children even a meager meal, each day.
In some cases you would see children wearing really old or torn and dirty clothes — but only when the family is living in extreme poverty or when there is no mother around. They get some clothes donated by the church, and there are secondhand shops (called “okay-okay” and mostly from Japan or Korea) where you can buy used clothes really cheap, for less than a dollar. As a professional chef and educator, and especially, as a Dad, he couldn’t bear to see hungry and sometimes, starving, children.
Wasson, who now is the Chef and Child Foundation Ambassador to the Philippines, did what he knew he had to do. Where he feeds children who are often profoundly malnourished, and teaches the mothers, at weekly classes, about breast feeding, nutrition, healthy eating habits, and how to take charge of their own lives. His compelling story, is a true-life tale of compassion, love, and commitment to life.