MovefoodPH serves needs of both food producers, consumers
In a sea of aging Filipino farmers, it is surprising to see a millennial taking charge. But at 33, Cherrie Atilano is already a household name in the Philippine agriculture industry, having dedicated more than half of her life in helping uplift the rural folk’s lives.
It was no surprise then when she started the #MovefoodPH initiative during the lockdown to elevate her 22-year-old advocacy, which provides an avenue for local food producers to sell their produce.
“It started with a pineapple farmer who called me to ask if I can help him sell 6,000 pineapples because he needed the money to pay his loan,” Atilano said when asked how the project came into fruition. “In three days, we were able to sell 3,500 pineapples. We updated [Agriculture Secretary William] Dar on this and he informed us that there were a lot of cooperatives needing help.”
Since the beginning of the lockdown, Movefood’s headquarters has been painted with alternating colors of bright yellow, green and red from the tons of fruits and vegetables it was buying from farmers who were in dire need of a stable market.
Despite her small team— there are only 11 people behind the program—MovefoodPH has already sold more than 150,000 kilos of fruits and vegetables from more than 10 provinces in two months, and has fed more than 33,400 families with healthy produce.
Atilano, who was named a United Nations nutrition ambassador in 2019, used her influence to reach out to markets that may not have been accessible to most. Aside from catering to households, the project also supplies the needs of private firms’ relief drives, restaurants, coffee shops, hospitals, barangays and even jails.
The demand for food has been overwhelming that at times, Movefood runs out of stock—a testament that local farm products that go to waste are not due to lack of demand, but due to lack of opportunities
What separates Move from other online agricultural stores is its ethical pricing. Atilano said they made sure the products were always sold 30 to 40 percent cheaper than those found in supermarkets. Rates are always based on the Department of Agriculture’s farm-gate pricing and also follow the government’s price freeze.
“When we started Movefood, we wanted to make sure that we can pay farmers in an ethical way and at the same time, give more value to the purchasing power of consumers,” she said. “We wanted to move the food from farmers to consumers. If we go to supermarkets, we have to wait in line only to find out that the products we want are already out of stock.” Movefood began with taking bulk orders from communities, at a minimum of 100 kilos. As their network grew—they now have more than 6,000 farmers in their platform—they began taking orders without a minimum, which could either be picked up or delivered through online courier services such as Lalamove and Grab.
As most Filipino families continue to struggle with combating not just COVID-19 but also hunger, their most sought-after commodity is not rice but mung beans (munggo). Since mung beans have longer shelf life than most vegetables, companies would often take orders in bulk for their relief drives.
Other hard vegetables that are often sold out are sayote, pumpkins, carrots, potatoes and saging na saba—food that are starchy and easily filling.
Movefood also applies a zero-waste approach. Fruits and vegetables that are bruised from transport but are still of good quality are turned into jams and other processed products, while leftovers and peelings are not discarded but are used as compost.
Atilano also used this opportunity to teach local growers on how to properly sell their goods, as simple as removing dirt from hand picked produce before delivery and in ensuring that the quality of products would not be compromised by using the right containers during transport.
“The teaching of post-harvest standards is very important. There should be quality control. These things are significant if farmers want to expand their market,” she said.
All these initiative are not new to Atilano, whose passion for agriculture runs deep, having been raised in a sugarcane farm in Negros Occidental. Her attachment to the local soil has made her turn her back on a Fulbright scholarship, opting to stay in the country to help farmers in the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm instead.
Expanding footprint Since then, the millennial has been at the forefront of the industry by starting the Marinduque-based social enterprise Agrea, which was also the starting point of the Movefood.
Even when lockdowns are already beginning to ease, Atilano vows to maintain Movefood and to continue helping in uplifting the lives and livelihood of local food growers.
With the help of other stakeholders, the group has broadened its footprint by creating pop-up stores in Makati and Quezon City. They have also diversified their products as more farmers and consumers make use of its platform.
Movefood is planning to start selling fertilizers and begin planned meal deliveries. They have also started taking orders of avocado burgers, and have made available fruits and vegetable baskets.
“There are a lot of ways to help our farmers. It doesn’t really need to be high-tech, we just have to make our solutions meaningful. We started with only a Facebook page and a Google form order, and from there we are growing. We have a lot of surprises in store for our customers,” she said.
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