‘Luntiang Lunes’ – Leafy Monday – which kicked off in the southeast Asian country in August, is the brainchild of Dr Custer Deocaris, a neuroscientist and biogerontologist.
His aim is to introduce the campaign in public buildings and offices across the Philippines and cut back on the number of preventable deaths – from stroke, heart disease and cancer – that result from eating too much meat and not enough vegetables. Heart disease is one of the biggest killers in the Philippines. An archipelago of islands that is home to 94 million people, it is the world’s 12th most populous country.
“The ‘greening’ and indigenisation of our people’s diet is a major public health challenge and we are heeding the concerted support from all sectors,” said Decocaris, who launched the campaign in partnership with NGO Nurturers of the Earth and the World Vegetable Center, an international organisation that aims to increase production and consumption of vegetables in tropical developing countries.
Philippinos eat far fewer vegetables than people in the rest of Asia and western countries, with more than half the population, particularly in cities and large towns, regularly eating unhealthy fast-food.
“It has been our culture to consider vegetables as the ‘poor man’s diet’ and ascribed to it a negative image. More than a quarter of our children are malnourished while 27 in every 100 Filipino adults are overweight and obese,” Deocaris added.
Luntiang Lunes is now urging schools, universities, offices and hospitals to serve one vegetarian meal a week, made up of local vegetables and brown rice.