In various residential communities in Metro Manila, one would know it is already National Nutrition Month when schoolchildren and their parents walk around the barangays in a mini-procession, the kids dressed in colorful vegetable costumes like eggplant, tomato, apple, egg, milk, etc.
July has been the designated Nutrition Month since ex-President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 491, directing the National Nutrition Council (NNC) to lead in the nationwide observance. The law’s objective is to create greater awareness on the importance of nutrition among Filipinos.
The schools are the best venues for educating the youth about nutrition, and they are most happy to support the NNC in its education and information mission because well-nourished schoolchildren are physically and mentally stable and easy to teach.
Teachers and parents are helping each other in guiding children and young adults on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
Early in life, children should be taught about how a healthy diet supports normal growth, mental and physical development and painless ageing, assists in maintaining a healthy body weight, and reduces the risk of disease leading to overall health and well-being.
Good food, combined with enough sleep and exercise, strengthens the immune system and protects an individual against chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem of malnutrition in the Philippines was already concerning. According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the current chronic malnutrition rate among Filipino children aged 0 to 2 is at 26.2 percent, the highest in 10 years. Severe malnutrition causes permanent disability, stunted growth and even early death, and children of poor families are most vulnerable.
If this problem is that serious before 2020, one can imagine how the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic even exacerbated the malnutrition status of the population.
The government and its foreign partners, including the United Nations, the US, China, Australia, Japan and South Korea have been cooperating to provide Filipinos with access to food, water, livelihood opportunities and medical care.
Filipinos themselves can do their share in this endeavor by making it easier for the authorities to achieve the desired result — by planting food crops, raising farm animals, making a living. Any difficult problem can be solved by concerted efforts of all sectors.