Nutrition Education is recognized as one of the most important tools to help promote well-being – through early interventions to help ensure children grow up with good nutrition practices, knowledge, and actions. Nutrition Education provides children with the right knowledge about well-being including having a balanced diet, the kind of foods the body needs to achieve good nutrition and the importance of being active, all lessons which children can bring into adulthood.
The Case of Nutrition for Filipino Children
Among children in the Philippines aged 5-10 years old, 31.2% are underweight, while those who are overweight are at 8.6%. The National Capital Region (NCR) is also identified as one of the regions in the Philippines with the highest number of overweight and obese children aged 5-10 years old at 17.9%. (Food and Nutrition Research Institute National Nutrition Survey. 2015). We have the double burden of over and undernutrition among our children, which shows the need for greater nutrition education.
“To help reverse the trend in obesity or malnutrition, Nutrition Education should start early,” says Dr. Rodolfo Florentino, a renowned health expert in the Philippines and the former Chairman President and now an adviser for the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, Inc.
“Indeed, school-age presents an excellent window of opportunity for teaching children the basics of proper diet, balanced meals, the value of vegetables and fruits, and inculcating in them proper dietary habits and practices, as well as the need for being physically active through play and exercise. They are very receptive to new knowledge taught them by their teachers,” Dr. Florentino shares.
He continues, “School children religiously follow what their teacher teaches them. At this age, children tend to be less and less dependent on their parents for the food they eat. They choose the food they want to eat. Thus the home provides the venue for practicing what they are taught, and as long as the balanced and nutritious food is offered in the family table, optimum growth and development is assured. The parents then have an important role of supporting what the teacher taught them by offering nutritious and balanced meals on the table, choosing balanced snacks in and outside the home, and providing the opportunity for play and exercise. The knowledge, practices, and habits children learn in school will remain with them through adolescence and adulthood,”
Since 1959, the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. (NFP) has been operating as an assisting agency complementing and supporting the nutrition efforts of agencies in the government and non-government sectors. “NFP’s main thrust is Nutrition Education and is the core component of the majority of its programs and services. Nutrition education classes discriminate no one and are given to various groups in the communities to provide them knowledge on health and nutrition,” explains Lenliegh Hope Luces, NFP Acting Assistant Executive Director.
“Topics discussed include but are not limited to: the basic food groups, meal planning and food preparation, food safety, utilization of edible wastes, nutrition in the life cycle, environmental sanitation, livelihood opportunities, and nutritional management of diseases. We also use different methodologies such as role-playing, workshops, games, and cooking demonstrations are to make the class interactive and participative,” Luces reveals.
To further promote public health nutrition among the population and help alleviate nutrition problems in the Philippines, the NFP joined the regional South East Asia Public Health Nutrition Network (SEA-PHN), a partnership of key stakeholders in the region, namely nutrition societies, government agencies and corporate companies. Under the partnership between the SEA-PHN and Mondelēz International in Southeast Asia, the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines partnered with the snacking company to implement the Good Nutrition Key to Healthy Children module, a nutrition education project of the Network, for the Company’s community program, the Joy Schools.
Partnering with Mondelez Philippines for the Joy Schools Program
Established in 2013, the Joy Schools program of Mondelēz International across Southeast Asia has been adopting public elementary schools. This aims to empower young children to take positive steps towards their overall well-being focusing on Nutrition Education, Physical Activity and Access to Nutrient Fresh Foods.
Shanahan Chua, the Head of Corporate and Government Affairs of the Company described the Joys Schools program and what it aims to achieve, “Through the Joy Schools, we are helping empower communities to lead balanced lifestyles thereby helping address nutrient needs for at-risk populations – all of which also help support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Since it started in the Philippines in 2013, our Joy Schools program is now implemented by our Company in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, all following the same program structure. I’m proud to say that this 2018 we have adopted 16 new Joy Schools all over Southeast Asia.”
Chua continues, “We have partnered with the Philippine Business for Social Progress for our Joy Schools program locally to provide access to fresh food and promote the importance of active play. In the school year 2017-2018, 88% of 400 students who benefitted from the Joy Schools’ daily 9-month lunch feeding program have gained weight, while 80% saw an increase in height. Donations of much-needed sports equipment have also been made to the schools to help promote active play.”
He added “For nutrition education, we partnered with the NFP to implement their Good Nutrition Key to Healthy Children for our three current adopted Joy Schools in Metro Manila. The program began in July 2018 and will continue to March 2019, covering Grade 3 students, who will be taught basic nutrition knowledge and good nutrition practices. We know the importance of early nutrition education to help develop good health habits in the future. Through the NFP, we are helping provide this knowledge to children in our adopted schools.”
At the end of the program, both Mondelēz International and the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. aim to see an extensive improvement of the knowledge, action, and practices of the students when it comes to good nutrition.