A leading seed company in the Philippines has started collaborating with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) to promote proper nutrition, especially among young children so they will have a good start in life.
The seed company is the East-West Seed which has been developing improved varieties of vegetables that can contribute to the supply of nutritious vegetables that can be grown in farms as well as in home gardens.
As the initial project for East-West’s collaboration with FNRI of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), a showcase of a vegetable garden has been established at the FNRI grounds in Bicutan, Taguig City. FNRI is headed by Dr. Mario Capanzana who took up his PhD in Food Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
With the use of improved seeds and growing techniques, several favorite vegetables are now yielding bountiful harvests of eggplant, okra, tomatoes, ampalaya, sitao, patola, pechay, pumpkin and others. In addition, flowering ornamentals and culinary herbs are also grown in the ground as well as in containers.
The purpose is to show that vegetables can be grown even in limited space with the right technology. To expand the collaboration, plans are under way to put up similar vegetable gardens in regional offices of the FNRI-DOST wherever it is suitable.
Encouraging more people to eat vegetables, from the very young to adults, is deemed to significantly contribute to the proper nutrition of Filipinos who are suffering from malnutrition. Malnutrition results in stunting as well as in obesity. Stunting, which means the individual is growing below the standard, is the result of prolonged inadequate intake, improper feeding practices and recurrence of illness, according to the FNRI report.
What worries experts is that the occurrence of stunting is getting higher. For instance, the prevalence of stunting among children less than 5 years old has increased from 2013 to 2015. Among one-year-old, stunting was recorded at 31.5 percent in 2013 increasing to 36.2 percent in 2015; among 2 years old, 35.7% in 2013 to 38.4 percent in 2015; 35.4 percent in 2013 among three years old to 38.6 percent in 2015; and among 4 to 4.99 years old, 32.7 percent in 2013 to 36.8 percent in 2015.
Earlier, the FNRI has been undertaking research on improving the nutritional intake of children and young adults. One of them is the formulation of food products with improved nutritional contents. One of them is a formulation of rice and mungo. The combination has resulted in a balanced nutrition not only for the young but also for adults, including senior citizens.
Dr. Capanzana explains that giving children rice alone (usually in the form of porridge or “lugaw”) does not give a balanced diet. This is because rice does not have sufficient lysine content which promotes growth and muscle development. On the other hand, giving only mungbean is not enough because although it has adequate lysine, it has only minimal sulfur-containing amino acid. But the combination of the two makes it an ideal food product.
Today, a number of companies are commercially producing instant rice-mungo mix in sachets that are very convenient to prepare by just adding boiling water. To further enhance nutritional value and palatability, mashed pumpkin, chocolate or chicken soup may be added to the mixture.
Other food products developed by FNRI are noodles enriched with pumpkin, polvoron fortified with vegetables and milk, and fortified rice.