Five hundred fifty-one children, 6-59 months old, pregnant, and lactating, from the 23 barangays in the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon received freshly produced soya milk beginning 23 April 2020. This was Prieto Diaz’s action in the midst of possible food insecurity brought about by enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Distribution of this nutritious, high protein milk provided the much-needed protein and other nutrients to children and mothers of Prieto Diaz.
More often than not, children are among the vulnerable sector least considered in both normal and emergency times. Likewise, nutrition has taken a backseat in governance and emergency responses, more so if leaders are confused or ignore laws particularly the EO 51 or Milk Code. EO 51 prohibits the donation of formula milk even during emergency times. In just the early period of implementation of ECQ, complaints of not receiving food packs started to arise, more from needy families with younger children. Many attempted but were stopped, though there were still few who were able to distribute formula milk. Such issue if taken placidly, could result to more malnourished children, particularly among the younger ones.
Prieto Diaz is a 5th class municipality with a total of 5,700 households, 45.9% of which are classified as the poorest of the poor. Based on 2019 OPT plus, 3.2% of the children 0-59-month-old were wasted, 22.1% were stunted and 9.3% were underweight. It is a coastal community with approximately 20,000 population, of which 40% are children. The town is geographically far making its access to assistance difficult. Adding to the dilemma is the desire to provide enough for all its children, given the limited budget of the local government.
This limitation did not hamper them to think of sustainable nutrition response amidst this pandemic. Bestowed with vast natural resources including a promising soya beans production, the municipality of Prieto Diaz through the Municipal Nutrition Committee led by Mayor Benito L. Doma, and the Good Neighbors International Philippines (GNIP) sealed a partnership for the processing of soya milk.
With the lobbying of Mr. Fernando B. Detecio, Municipal Nutrition Action Officer, the LGU appropriated budget for the processing facility which needed aluminum, bottle sterilizer, and other supplies; the site of the processing plant and the production area of soybeans was provided by Barangay Council of Quidolog while GNIP provided the grant for the soya milk processing machine, capacity development in terms of organization and management and enterprise development. Last April, training of workers, product testing, and tasting was done.
Soybeans have a good amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. It also a good source of potassium and can be fortified with vitamins A, B12, D, and calcium. It also contains very little saturated fats. Aside from milk, other products can be derived such as tofu, patties, and even polvoron.
This LGU nutrition project will go beyond the ECQ as plans for its sustainability - developmental plans with budget and legislation- are being considered. This is also being considered a livelihood project of Barangay Nutrition Scholars as this can become an enterprise. Scaling-up of soy milk and other soy products were eyed as flagship products to be carried out by social enterprise wherein part of production and earnings will be earmarked for other nutrition projects and interventions. MNAO Detecio believes this initiative is an evidence that adherence to milk code is not at all difficult as there are many ways to provide supplementation, milk, and non-milk products.
“Eradicating malnutrition is not a concept of ‘I’, it is ‘we’. So, together, with the natural resources around us, NGOs, and an appeal for more budget for health and nutrition from national agencies and local government, we will beat malnutrition in Prieto Diaz”, according to MNAO Detecio.
MLE, GNIP FM; FD, Prieto Diaz MNAO, DBB, ARR NNC RO V)