Business Columns

The Outsider: Partnership to Boost Feeding Program

Nutrition affects not only children’s physical growth but also their school performance and educational outcomes.

According to the Philippine Statistics Office, of the 108.67 million household population in 2020, 33.4 million (30.7%) were under 15 years of age (young dependents) and the school-age population (5 to 24 years old) accounted for 42.78 million (39.4%).

Future leaders of the country will come from this young population. The human resources that the country will need for economic growth in the coming years will come from this young population.  Therefore one of the most important investments should be for the education and health of the youth.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) aims to strengthen school-based feeding program to address malnutrition.  According to the PDP the government, state universities and colleges, and private sector shall intensify the development of safe, affordable, nutritious, and energy-dense food products to address malnutrition.

These food products include enhanced Nutribun; sesame seeds-based, and rice–mongo-based complementary foods developed by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

There are programs to ensure proper nutrition for undernourished children in public day care, kindergarten and public elementary school.

An important legislation to combat malnutrition among Filipino children is Republic Act No. 11037 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on June 20, 2018. Known as the Masustansyang Pagkain Para Sa Batang Pilipino Act of 2018, it establishes a comprehensive National Feeding Program and institutionalizes the feeding programs of the DSWD and the Department of Education.

Some of those who were in the elementary grades in the 1970s are familiar with the government feeding program in public schools where pupils get nutribuns. Nutribuns were considered ready-to-eat complete meals to fight malnutrition among pupils in targeted schools.  These were round and compact breads unlike the soft and fluffy breads commonly sold in the local bakeries. These were distributed as part of the school feeding program.  

In 2020, the DOST-FNRI launched the “Enhanced Nutribun” or e-Nutribun. As the name suggests, it is an improved version of the 1970s nutribun. Reformulated by DOST-FNRI taking into consideration the nutrient requirements of children, it is one of the government’s responses to address hunger and malnutrition.

The enhanced and reformulated nutribun has more macronutrients and micronutrients such as iron and vitamin A. Unlike the former nutribuns that weighed 170-190 grams, the e-nutribun weighs 160-165 grams. It is softer and each piece has 504 calories and protein. There are variants of the e-nutribun: the squash, carrot and sweet potato which is a good source of natural fiber, energy, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc.

This year, the e-nutribun got another boost as San Miguel Foods and DOST-FNRI signed a memorandum of agreement a memorandum of agreement formalizing their partnership to develop a standard premix for enhanced nutribuns to support government’s nutrition program for children.

DOST-FNRI’s network of adaptors, makers of enhanced nutribuns to be distributed to children beneficiaries, will use the premixes.

With the agreement, sufficient and standardized nutritional values in every nutribun are assured while allowing cost-effectiveness for the adaptors.

San Miguel Corporation President and CEO Ramon S. Ang said that nutrition is an advocacy SMC has been focused on for many years. “This partnership will combine the research and development being done by DOST-FNRI, and the technical know-how and production capabilities of San Miguel Foods. Ultimately, this will benefit many children, especially those in disadvantaged communities who do not get enough or proper nutrition,” he said.

DOST Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. said partnerships with the private sector are vital to advance the programs and technologies DOST produces to address malnutrition. He took cognizance of the various efforts of SMC and RSA to promote science and technology to stimulate national development.

During the pandemic years, SMC also supported the reduction of hunger and malnutrition in the country through feeding program and production of nutribuns which were distributed to disadvantaged communities via feeding kiosks at identified Petron service stations.

SMC’s nutribuns which were distributed to needy communities during the pandemic had a high content of dietary fiber, iron and iodine. The nutribuns were made of quality ingredients that included San Miguel products such as King Hard wheat flour and Star margarine. Compared to the regular pan de sal, the nutribun had 85 grams of dough with 250 calories or equivalent to 1 ¼ cup of rice.

With the partnership between SMC and DOST-FNRI, SMC has again shown its malasakit for the Filipino people.  It is another testament to the conglomerate leader’s vision for a better Philippines through investments not only in infrastructure, agriculture, energy but also in the health of future generations for it is the youth who has the most to look forward to. To quote Jose Rizal, “The youth is the hope of our future.”

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