Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Indigenous Vegetables Used in School Feeding Project

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Despite being surrounded by several bodies of water, the Philippines still houses vast land areas for agriculture and forest utilizations. Due to the rich soil, a diversity of indigenous vegetables can be found in most areas of the country. However, the changing food habits and preferences of individuals lead to the underutilization of these indigenous vegetables.

According to the 2008 National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), vegetables only comprise 12.8 percent of the total household consumption and only 3.9 percent of this is the consumption of green leafy and yellow vegetables.

Vegetables are valued not only for their contribution to fiber in the diet, but also for nutrient content. Furthermore, green leafy and yellow vegetables are rich in iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and other micronutrients.

The Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos (NGF) revised in 2012 not only recommends eating a variety of foods everyday but also eating more vegetables and fruits daily to get the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber for regulation of body processes.

In an attempt to promote proper eating in the school setting, the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2007 provided specific guidelines under DepEd Order No. 8 Series of 2007 on the foods sold in the school canteens.

The DepEd memorandum circular also indicates that the school canteen in both elementary and secondary levels shall only provide or sell nutrient-rich foods such as root crops, noodles, rice and corn products in native preparation, fruits and vegetables in season, and fortified food products labelled rich in protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals.

Also, the memorandum prohibits the sale of carbonated drinks, sugar-based synthetic or artificially flavoured juices, junk foods, and any food product that may be detrimental to a child’s health.

Another program is the production of indigenous vegetables in school and household gardens which is a cheap, sustainable and feasible way to hit two birds with one stone—undernutrition and food insecurity.

In 2009, a project conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) in coordination with the World Vegetable Center, launched the promotion of 10 indigenous Philippine vegetables these include alugbati (Basella alba), ampalaya (bitter gourd) for leaves or bayok-bayok (Momordicacharantia), himbabao (Allaeanthusluzonicus), kulitis (Amaranthus), labong (bamboo shoot), upo or bottle gourd (Lagenariasiceria), malunggay (Moringa), pako (fiddlehead), saluyot (Corchorus), and talinum (Talinumtriangulare).

image from the web
Known as “Promotion of Indigenous Vegetable for Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition Improvement of Rural Households in the Philippines” project, it was implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA), National Nutrition Council (NNC), and local government units (LGUs).

The project proponents advocate aggressive promotion in encouraging Filipinos to produce and consume local vegetables for a sustainable and healthy living.

Likewise, a collaborative project by FNRI-DOST, International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), DepEd, and International Development Research Center (IDRC) entitled Integrated Approach to Address Food and Nutrition Security in the Philippines utilizes indigenous vegetables from the school garden in a supplementary feeding program among school-aged children in two schools in Cavite.

The project integrates Gardening, Nutrition Education and Supplementary Feeding or simply GarNESupp, to alleviate undernutrition in target students in two selected schools.

Sustainable food sources, like gardens, are important especially in times of low food production, while the utilization of indigenous vegetables can provide a variation in the diet of the household that help in forming correct behaviors towards healthy eating among children.

Moreover, the FNRI-DOST developed recipes utilizing indigenous vegetables found in the school garden. These recipes were also used in the supplementary feeding of 160 school-aged children six to eight years old conducted by the FNRI-DOST, IIRR, DepEd and IDRC.

To supplement these two approaches nutrition education sessions were conducted by the DepEd Grades 1 to 3 teachers to parents of participating students and nutrition education were also integrated to the lesson plan. The materials that were used in these sessions like visual aids, were joint effort of all the Grades 1 to 3 teachers of the participating schools at the General AloƱa Memorial Elementary School and Felipe Calderon Elementary School.

Physical and behavioral developments of school-aged children are usually targeted in supplementary feeding programs.

The introduction of indigenous vegetables to school children familiarizes them with the local produce rather than solely consuming and opting for high-yielding and foreign crops. Using indigenous vegetables in supplementary feeding programs also decreases the cost of menu and allows for proper knowledge information to ensure continuous consumption of healthy foods among school-aged children.

About the Author:
Assistant Scientist
Department of Science and Technology

For more information on food and nutrition, contact:
Dr. Mario V. Capanzana
Food and Nutrition Research Institute
Department of Science and Technology
General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City
Telefax: 837-2934/837-3164/837-2071 local 2296

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