By: Juan Carlo M. Manas and Zen Trinidad

The prevalence of malnutrition has been prowling in countries worldwide since time immemorial. Different strategies and approaches had also been tried to address this problem. In some areas, notable results of improvement were recorded but unfortunately in some places, malnutrition’s pervasiveness continues to overrun the health of its populace, especially children that often results to staunched mental development, stunting, weakness and other long term complications.

In 2016, Department of Science and Technology- Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST- FNRI) conducted a survey where a surprising malnutrition rate among children aged 0-2 was at 26.2%, the highest in 10 years. Chronic malnutrition, or stunting rate for children under 5 years old, was at 33.5%, up by 30.5% from 2013. From 2013 to 2015, 10% of the stunting children increased to an average of 40%, and is expected to increase in 2016.

In the CALABARZON region, the province of Quezon tops the chart with the highest malnutrition rate. These statistics of bars and graphs are composed by adults but its majority are children coming from far flung municipalities of the province that are commonly located in islands.

This threatening concern provided an opportunity for the DOST to extend its service to the people. In an inter- agency partnership involving DOST- FNRI, Polytechnic University of the Philippines- Mulanay (PUP- Mulanay), Local Government Unit of Mulanay, Quezon, andDOST- CALABARZON, collaboration on the establishment of a complementary food production facility came into fruition.

The academe, hand in hand with these government institutions pact an agreement in 2014 that aims to establish a Medium- Scale Complementary Food Production Facility in Mulanay, Quezon. Last August 10, 2017, in commemoration of the National Science and Technology Week, PSTC- Quezon led the inauguration of the P2.7M building located inside the PUP- Mulanay Campus.

Initial production of the food facility includes the Rice-Mongo Sesame, a ready–to-cook baby food blend as complimentary food for babies six months old and above, as well as the Rice-Mongo Crunches for one-year old children up to three years.  

In a message, DOST- FNRI Director Mario Capanzana said that “This (project) was done through provision of facilities and technology transfer in the supply side by DOST-FNRI and the funding support through local government units (LGUs) legislation on the demand side in order to sustain the program.”

Dr. Lydia Manguiat, assistant regional director of DOST- CALABARZON also called for the creation of a sustainability plan to ensure that the project works for a long period towards the ultimate reduction of malnutrition in the province.

Manguiat’s proposal includes material sourcing, facility upgrading after wear and tear of continued use, continuous capacity training of workers, and nutritious product development aided by FNRI.

She also emphasized to develop a marketing and financial sustainability plans to make the project “self-sustaining” to remain instrumental in the reduction of malnutrition in target areas.

Mulanay Mayor Joselito Ojeda, whose town is one of the recipients of DOST’s Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) projects, said there are now available products for the LGU feeding programs rather than the unhealthy ‘junk foods.’

DOST- Quezon provincial director Maria Esperanza Jawili expressed elation now that they have the facility to serve the province’s 3rd and 4th districts.

She described the new facility as bigger compared with the two small scale facilities earlier constructed to serve adequate requirements in Calauag and Atimonan towns.

She also appealed to the mayors to support their respective Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) during the two-day training to be conducted by DOST starting September this year in several locations.