On July 2, the 2013 Nutrition Month national launch held at the Manila Hotel encouraged the public to register in the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, an international campaign aimed at uniting people from various sectors into a collective effort to improve nutrition. The campaign was spearheaded by the National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health.
In the Philippines, the campaign was themed “Gutom at Malnutrition, Sama-Sama Nating Wakasan (let’s end hunger and malnutrition together).” During the launch, it was revealed by the Family Income and Expenditure Survey in the first semester of 2012 that one in every 10 households are food poor, or do not have enough money to buy food that they need to achieve proper nutrition.
According to the Social Weather Stations, hunger incidence has been at an average of 14.5 percent in the last 15 years. SWS’ most recent hunger incidence survey showed that 19.2 percent of respondents experienced hunger. Among pre-school-aged children, 1 in every 5 has been found to be underweight for his or her age.
Various data also revealed that the Philippines, an agriculture-based country blessed with fertile volcanic lands, has been among the Asian countries consuming the least amounts of vegetables, as cited by Assistant Agriculture Secretary Salvador Salacup.
The decreased consumption of vegetables, coupled with the steady increase in demand for animal products such as beef, pork, poultry and dairy, has contributed to the incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in the general population.
CVD has remained as the No. 1 killer in the country.
In an earlier interview, Department of Science and Technology balik-scientist Custer Deocaris estimated Filipinos’ annual average consumption of vegetables at just 39 kg per person per year. In comparison, an average person in China eats 250 kg of vegetables annually.
Deocaris said that if Filipinos, especially children, would increase their vegetable consumption and forego the Western-style diet dominated by meats and processed foods, hunger and malnutrition would be drastically reduced.
He revealed that each Filipino needs to consume at least 69 kg of vegetables per year to stay healthy.
The seventh national survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that the Philippines carried a double-disease burden: 26 percent of children were malnourished, and 27 in every 100 adults aged 20 and above were either obese or overweight.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine stressed: “Since our bodies produce cholesterol for our needs, we do not need external sources. Cholesterol is found in all foods that come from animals: meat (pork and beef), poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt and so on. Choosing lean cuts of meat supposedly to avoid cholesterol is a myth; much of the cholesterol is, in fact, in the lean portion.”
There has been an increasing number of online sites and self-help instructional recipes of nutritious foods for schoolchildren such as veggie burger made of potassium-rich banana blossom (puso ng saging) and banana peel (balat ng saba). Bulacan-based Sophia School is one of the few schools offering tofu sisig, vegetarian burgers, meatless nuggets and lumpiang shanghai. Its ready-to-eat viands include meatless kare-kare that can be brought home for sharing with the students’ household.
Vegetarian fare also includes congee with tofu bits and boiled rootcrops (gabi, ube and camote), yacon and beets. Native vegetables—alugbati, malunggay, pechay and kangkong—have been added in the preparation of juices, broths and meals (for sautéed mongo, malunggay/kangkong pesto pasta and the like).
Nona Andaya Castillo of Nurturers of the Earth has her own recipe of vegetarian kaldereta, a mix of tomato sauce, coconut milk and fried or baked tofu; tofu stroganoff, which consists of tofu, shiitake mushroom (dried or fresh) and nondairy cream sauce—cashew nut with blended tofu for mothers intending to make their children not to crave for hotdogs and other meat-based products.
Another helpful online site is www.happycow.net. Pinoyvegs’ Facebook page enables members to network and share new discoveries or recipes with fellow vegetarians.
Meanwhile, a growing number of schools are taking to heart lifestyle-disease prevention. The Public School 244 in Flushing, New York, has a vegetarian cafeteria menu.
According to nutrition health experts and advocates, a little creativity in the kitchen and the garden will do the trick to help fight hunger and malnutrition, and to free humans from the shackles of heart-attack inducing animal products.