Friday, June 29, 2012

NNC: Nationwide Planting of Vegetables in Schools Kicks-Off Nutrition Month Celebration

July 2 marks the official start of this year’s Nutrition Month celebration guided by the theme “Pagkain ng gulay ugaliin, araw-araw itong ihain!”. The National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health kicks-off the nationwide celebration with the planting of vegetables by school children of the Concepcion Elementary School in Marikina City.

The children will be joined by Health Secretary and NNC Chair Enrique Ona, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and Education Secretary Armin Luistro together with NNC Executive Director and concurrent Assistant Secretary of Health Maria-Bernardita Flores. 

Thousands of school children are expected to plant vegetables in public elementary schools. The Department of Education issued a memorandum encouraging all schools to celebrate Nutrition Month with the simultaneous planting of vegetables as part of its share to promote consumption of vegetables among children as part of a healthy diet. 

Photo source: National Nutrition Council
This year’s Nutrition Month celebration aims to encourage every Filipino to eat more vegetables, i.e. 3 servings or more per day, to add more vitamins and minerals in the diet as well as prevent non-communicable diseases such as various forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As vegetables have less calories, adding them to the diet can help people to reduce weight or maintain normal body weight. A serving of vegetable is equal to a cup of raw leafy vegetables or ½ cup of raw or cooked non-leafy vegetables.

The campaign is in response to the finding that the average Filipino eats less and less vegetables per day in the past 30 years. Based on the food consumption surveys of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Filipinos eat only about 2 servings of vegetables on average or about 110 grams. The vegetable consumption has been declining since 1978 when Filipinos still ate 145 grams per day. The data is alarming considering that low fruit and vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality based on a World Health Organization Report. The report also showed that 1.7 million deaths are due to low intake of fruits and vegetables. 

The Nutrition Month campaign also aims to encourage families, schools and communities to put up vegetable gardens to ensure supply of fresh and nutritious vegetables. The FNRI also reported that only 67.7% of Filipino households have vegetable gardens or fruit trees. Having vegetable gardens can help in reducing malnutrition and hunger especially among poor families. 

According to A/Sec. Flores, “The NNC encourages everyone to consume three or more servings of vegetables each day. Let’s also eat our indigenous vegetables such as malunggay, saluyot, kangkong, kamote tops and ampalaya. Let us also plant vegetables in all possible places. Even if there is no available space in many urban communities, , there are many urban gardening technologies such as container gardening and the use of hydroponics or soil-less gardening that can be used.” 

A/Sec Flores also added that “Young infants starting at 6 months, should be given pureed, mashed and finely cut green leafy and yellow vegetables. This can be added to thick lugaw to make for a nutritious complementary food in addition to breastmilk.” The NNC is very concerned that infants 6-11 months old had an intake of only 2 grams of vegetables while 1 year old children had an intake of 8 grams per day on average. For young children, vegetables are important sources of vitamin A and iron which are important nutrients that improve children’s immune system, growth and development. 

Other government agencies, non-government organizations, local government units, private sector and civil society are expected to also conduct various activities to help in promoting vegetables consumption.

For DepEd Memo 101 on the 2012 nutrition month celebration, please click here ...

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