Baybay City fights malnutrition with kamote baby food, milk

Jerry Yubal Jr.

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Baybay City fights malnutrition with kamote baby food, milk

KAMOTE. Kamote or sweet potato sold at a Baybay City market.

Baybay City Agricultural Office Facebook page

Kamote is considered a superfood, containing vitamins like beta-carotene and other minerals crucial for physical health and growth, particularly in children

LEYTE, Philippines – The Baybay City government has turned to kamote or sweet potato baby food and milk in combating malnutrition while simultaneously supporting farmers and the local economy.

In 2023, Baybay City recorded more than 1,500 cases of malnutrition among children in its communities. Based on an initial assessment of the City Health Office (CHO), undernourished pregnant women tend to give birth to underweight infants as well, starting a cycle of malnutrition in the communities. 

To address this problem, the city is promoting baby food and milk drink with kamote as supplementary meals for their regular feeding programs for pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children aged 6 to 59 months old.

The city takes pride in its root crop industry, utilizing 20% of the total local harvest for producing diverse products known as “Baybay Delights.” These goods include locally manufactured items processed with various crops and tubers, aside from kamote.

In fact, Baybay was the first to establish a sweet potato processing center in the Visayas in 2020 and has since strengthened the local kamote industry. Based on City Agriculture Office records, over 2,000 kilos of kamote are processed every year for the product manufacturing.   

Kamote is considered a superfood, containing vitamins like beta-carotene and other minerals crucial for physical health and growth, particularly among children.

Baybay Mayor Boying Cari initiated the use of kamote in the city’s products, with the twin aim of supporting the city’s root crop industry and the city government’s nutrition programs. 

The baby food is processed by steaming and mashing the sweet potato before being mixed with mung beans for additional texture and nutrients. It also comes in a variety of flavors such as mango, jackfruit, avocado, and banana.

The milk drink intended for lactating and pregnant women, especially those considered as undernourished, are processed by combining kamote with pasteurized buffalo milk supplied by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

However, the lack of preservatives makes both products highly perishable. This is why the city government is working with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to prolong the shelf life of the product without the need for refrigeration. As of now, the product only has a one-month shelf-life and must be consumed immediately after opening.

A product launch and pilot testing was conducted in 2023 in Barangay Caridad, one of the most densely populated villages in Baybay, and one of the most affected by malnutrition.

According to Shelly Kate Maciar, plant-in-charge in the production of sweet potato-related products of Baybay, aside from aiding the nutrition programs of the city, this program has also helped local producers of root crops and carabao milk in the city in selling their produce efficiently.

She added that farmers are given “free planting materials and subsidies” alongside “training seminars tackling sustainable cultivation practices” to equip them with both knowledge and materials needed for root crops cultivation.

Kristine Shane Castos, the designated City Nutrition Action Officer at the CHO, explains how sweet potato-based products like baby food and milk drink are different from other commercialized products. 

“Kamote contains less sugar, with healthy carbs, and it’s rich in fiber. This makes it healthy for our children and mothers,” Castos, who is a nurse, explained.

She added that the newly launched products came in handy since not all infants can eat rice.

The projects are awaiting DOST approval for the mass production of the kamote-infused baby food and milk drink.

Other kamote products that the city promotes under the banner of “Baybay Delights” are kamote chips, fries, and ice cream which all can be availed at the Baybay Pasalubong Center. – Rappler.com

Jerry Yubal Jr. is a campus journalist from the Visayas State University (VSU) in Baybay City Main Campus. The executive editor of Amaranth, he is also an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow of Rappler for 2023-2024.

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