How local crops can end malnutrition

Jodesz Gavilan
The key to fighting hunger may already be in your home garden
FOOD FOR ALL. Local crops can be used as complementary food for children. Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – The vegetables and other crops people grow in their backyards might be the answer to ending malnutrition in their local communities.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), recently concluded its test production of supplementary food using locally-available ingredients.

According to the World Health Organization, this is used to provide nutrients to children, especially when breastfeeding no longer meets the required nutritents intake. 

Supervising Science Research Specialist Joyce Tobias said that the expensive imported fortified supplementary food used by the WFP pushed them to find another option.

Mahal ang imported kaya hindi advisable na laging iyon ang gamitin,” she explained. (It’s not advisable to always use imported food because they’re expensive.)

The new supplementary food, Momsie, costs only P7 per sachet and P75 per jar. A pack already contains more than half of the nutrient requirements of a child per day.

Acceptability level

Aside from costing less, the institute wanted to develop something that suits not just the need, but also the preference of undernourished children. They mostly come from an underprivileged background in poor communities.

Importante na gusto ng target group iyong ipapakain mo,” Tobias emphasized. “Ang nanay malalaman nila kung nagustuhan ng bata kaya sila rin kinukonsulta dapat.”

(It’s important that the target group likes what you’re feeding them. Mothers know if their child will like what they’re being fed so they should also be consulted.)

The FNRI found out that most prefer their supplementary food to be ready-to-eat. One reason is it lessens the cost of preparation, especially during disasters.

Children too are expected to accept food that tastes slightly bland, has an ice cream-like texture, is flavorful and thick, but not sticky.

NUTRITION. Who is mainly in charge of the country's nutrition issues? Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler.com

The use of local crops such as mongo and soy bean – what the children are used to – added to better acceptability of the food. Since most of their normal meals are composed of ingredients available in their area, the taste won’t be foreign. (READ: Toward a healthy Cagayan De Oro)

Mas acceptable talaga iyong nagawa namin dahil ang mga local crops na pamilyar sa kanila ang ginamit namin,” she said. (What we made is acceptable because they’re already familiar with the local crops we used.)

FNRI conducted a test rollout in Pandacan, Manila. Compared to the common and expensive Plumpy Doz, the locally-produced supplementary food was more accepted by children in the area.

Community effort

Josefine Gonzales of the Research Utilization Management Division (RUMD) said that aside from production, the FNRI is already giving pointers to residents on how to ensure the health of children given that supplementary feeding is done only once a day. (READ: What a ‘Pinggang Pinoy” should look like

“Tinuturuan na namin ang mga Barangay Nutrition Scholars at mga nanay kung paano pakakainin iyong mga bata,” she explained. “Kahit na may supplementary food na gaya nito, dapat kumakain rin sila ng masustansyang pagkain.”

(We teach the Barangay Nutrition Scholars and mothers how they should feed their children. Even if you have supplementary food, you should still feed them nutritious meals.)

Community members are also taught how to tend crops that can contribute to the local production of nutritious food for children. (READ: Volunteeer health workers on the mountain top)

After all, as many say, it takes a village to fight hunger and malnutrition. – Rappler.com

Crop mixture photo from EP

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.