Oh My Gulay! Is Alive And Kicking

Oh My Gulay! Is Alive And Kicking
Sen. Edgardo J. Angara

In 2011, Sen. Edgardo Angara launched his advocacy that he called ‘Oh My Gulay!’ This is with the help of the private sector and some agencies of the government so that people, especially the children, are encouraged to plant and eat vegetables.

The lead implementers are the Department of Education and East-West Seed Company which has the expertise in vegetable production.
Now that he has finished his third term as senator, Angara feels he has even more time than before to promote his advocacy. Up to this time he is bothered by the fact that Filipinos are eating too little vegetables in their diet.
For instance, he said, Filipinos are currently eating an average of 100 grams per day instead of the 300 grams of vegetables per day as recommended by the UN FAO. He is all the more bothered because in 1978, the daily vegetable intake of every Filipino was 145 grams, going down to 130 grams in 1982, and now at 100 grams.
He surmises that the scant intake of vegetables is one reason for the malnutrition of school children. He cites the statistics: 26 out of 100 school children in the country are malnourished; 26% are underweight; 28% are under height among children 0-5 years old.
Among children 6 to 10 years old, Angara says, 26 are underweight and 33% are under height. Another form of malnutrition is anemia. Among infants 6 months to 11 months, there is a 56% prevalence of anemia. Among 6 to 12 years old, the prevalence of anemia is 20%. Other health problems include iron deficiency anemia, vitamin A deficiency and iodine deficiency disorders.
One that could help alleviate malnutrition among children is eating more vegetables which are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are also a source of fiber and vegetable protein.
Because Angara believes that because the children are the future leaders of our country, they should develop healthy bodies and minds. And that is why Oh My Gulay! is centered on elementary schools. In participating schools, a model vegetable garden is established so the teachers and school children can become more aware about the benefits of eating vegetables and learning how to grow them.
About P500,000 is needed to finance the setting up of the garden of about a thousand square meters or bigger. Sen. Angara has been able to convince several big companies and individual volunteers to lend a helping hand. Many foundations of big companies take it as part of their corporate social responsibility to sponsor the school gardens. The BDO Foundation owned by the richest Filipino sponsors about 15 school gardens a year.
Other sponsors are Jollibee, Metro Bank Foundation, Megaworld, Aboitiz Foundation, Infant & Pediatric Nutrition Association of the Philippines, Novartis, Zuellig Family Foundation, San Miguel Corporation, Asian Terminals Inc. Sunwest Care Foundation.
In this model garden, the improved growing techniques are showcased. These include the choice of the right varieties, the use of plastic mulch, proper land preparation, production of sturdy seedlings, weeding and keeping the garden clean, fertilizing and controlling pests and diseases. Throughout the process of producing a bountiful harvest, technicians of East-West Seed, the country’s biggest seed firm, are there to guide the participants.
Among the crops that are usually grown are eggplant, tomato, pepper (different types), cucumber, ampalaya, radish, pechay, upo, patola, squash, mustard, onion, kangkong and others. Also included are high-value crops like watermelon, melon, papaya and sweet corn.
When most of the crops are harvestable, a community day or harvest festival is held to showcase to visitors the results of improved vegetable production techniques. A cooking competition with the use of vegetables is also held.
In the last school year, about 82 vegetable gardens were sponsored by the different foundations. This year, the number is expected to increase as new sponsors are joining the movement. Big media  companies are also providing free air-time to spread the good news about vegetables, featuring celebrity endorsers.
Sen. Angara is confident that his advocacy will eventually succeed. Let’s join him in his advocacy.
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