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Youth

DOST helps address kids’ malnutrition problem in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY--The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Bicol regional office here is working closely with local government units (LGUs) in the setting up of complimentary food facilities in an effort to address the serious malnutrition problem among children in the region.

So far, DOST regional director Tomas Briñas on Friday said, two key Bicol LGUs have already partnered with his office in the program called “Establishment of Processing Facility for the Production of Complementary Food, Veggie Noodles and Bread.”

The latest to embrace the program is Gubat, a first class urban-rural town of Sorsogon, which under the partnership agreement was provided by the DOST equipment for the production of complementary foods using the recommended formulations from DOST’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

Under the agreement, the Gubat LGU, through the new facility, will produce sufficient amount of food products that it would serve to malnourished children in the locality under its feeding program and sell to neighboring municipalities, Briñas said.

These food items will include rice-mungo curls, rice-mungo baby instant blend and rice-mungo with sesame, which have been tested to reduce by over 50 percent the malnutrition incidence in certain application areas of the country.

Studies conducted by the FNRI show that mungo or mungbean (Vigna radiata), which is mainly used as human food, is one of the cheapest sources of plant protein which contains at least 27-percent protein and a good source of minerals such as calcium and sodium.

Dried mungo bean seeds are high in vitamins A and B while the sprouted ones are rich in vitamins B and C.

Rice, on the other hand, is the staple food serving the predominant dietary energy source for Filipinos.

A combination of these two locally-produced agricultural crops, when processed into complementary food supplement, showed significant increase in body weights of children after a four-month-long feeding program as tested in Agusan del Sur, Briñas said.

The rice-mungo curls, he said, a blend of rice flour and mungo is crispy with an appealing cereal taste enhanced by artificial flavors.

This product contains 130 kilocalories (kcal) of energy and four grams protein per 30 grams serving that is enough to meet the 12 percent of recommended energy and 14.3 percent of recommended protein intake of children with age of one to three years.

As a nutritious snack, it contains 15 milligram of calcium, one milligram of iron and 21 grams of carbohydrates, Briñas said.

The rice-mungo baby food blend in plain variety, meanwhile, is an instant food preparation rich in protein and energy processed using the extrusion cooking method.

The DOST regional chief said this food blend contains 120 kcal and four grams protein per 30 grams serving.

This formulation, he said, is enough to meet 17 percent of recommended energy and nutrient intake (RENI) for children aged six to 12 months and 29 percent of recommended protein intake for children of the same age.

It contains 140 calories (19 percent RENI) and four grams of protein (19.4 percent RENI) for children aged six to 12 months.

The other Bicol LGU now involved in the program is Iriga City of Camarines Sur where the earlier established DOST-assisted complementary food production facility being operated by the local government produces rice mungo curls and ready-to-cook rice mungo sesame blend.

The Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) in Pili, Camarines Sur, meanwhile, also has its DOST-FNRI complementary food processing equipment and food testing laboratories.

Briñas, on Friday, said the development of these food supplements for children and the implementation of the production program in partnership with LGUs are part of DOST’s commitment to help curb malnutrition in the region and in the country.

According to the latest report of the Department of Education (DepEd) Health and Nutrition Center (HNC), Bicol ranked third highest among the country’s 18 regions in malnutrition among elementary pupils.

In school-year 2012-2013, it recorded 52,310 pupils, representing 5.37 percent of the region’s total number of elementary school children who were classified as severely malnourished (severely wasted) and fourth in secondary schools with 3.75 percent or approximately 10, 379 students classified under the same malnutrition status.

The region also had 139,539 pupils equivalent to 14.32 percent of all elementary pupils in school year 2013-2014 and 36,475 students, or 13.19 percent of enrolled as secondary students in public schools, considered as malnourished or wasted, according to the HNC.

Based on the same data, Albay had a 6.86 prevalence rate for severely wasted, a new term being used by nutrition officials to mean severely underweight.

The province had an even higher rating for wasted, or underweight, children at 17.55 per cent.

On the other hand, FNRI’s latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS) says the number of malnourished children in Bicol had increased from 33.5 percent in 2008 to 39.8 percent in 2013.

While the same survey noted that the underweight cases in the region declined from 33.8 percent to 24.6 percent, still it belongs to the top three regions with the highest number of undernourished children ages 0-5 years old (low weight for age ratio) next to Region IV-B or the Mindoro-Marinduque-Roblom-Palawan region with 27.5 percent and Western Visayas with 26 percent. (by Danny Calleja, PNA)

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