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.
This year’s Nutrition Month celebration aims to encourage every Filipino to eat more vegetables that is 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 fewer 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.