Malnutrition continues to be a persistent problem in the Philippines especially among children five years old and younger, according to the 6th National Nutrition Survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Health.
This alarming situation continues to fuel the relevance of the health campaign initiated by Nestle Philippines four years ago – the “Laki sa Gatas” (LSG) Nutrition Education Advocacy.
Championing healthy dietary habits that include drinking milk and eating the right foods, the LSG program goes right to the heart of the public elementary school system nationwide to drive home the crucial role of nutrition in achieving better school performance and bringing a bright future for children.
The first five years of a child’s life are the most demanding in terms of development. According to the survey, four out of 10 children under 5 years old lack Vitamin A, four out of 10 children aged 6-10 years old lack iron, while one out of 10 children under 12 years old lack zinc.
Malnutrition manifests in as much as 40 percent of children being underweight and over 60 percent below their proper height levels among those belonging to the lower D and E socioeconomic classes, where the deficiencies are most notable because of poor food choices, and inadequate or total absence of milk intake.
Through the LSG program, Nestle is able to target and environment where both teachers and parents can also learn about proper nutrition habits and be encouraged to promote them to their children.
Launched in 2006, the program has grown to become an annual multipronged advocacy, which prioritizes the areas with low milk per capita consumption. Teachers are encouraged to reinforce the health concept of “Go, Grow and Glow” foods, detect cases of malnutrition among their students, and instill in the parents the importance of their children being healthy so they can study well and participate in school activities.
Parents, meanwhile, attend a lecture conducted by a nutritionist on how to make the right food choices for their families without stretching their budget; and ensure that basic nutrients are made part of their children’s daily diet through, among other things, milk-drinking.
The children’s session, on the other hand, includes numerous fun and educational activities for grades 2 and 3 pupils.
These include storytelling sessions, exciting games, and activity using “ambition glasses” in which their drawings of their ambition in life are inserted around drinking glasses to serve as a reminder that they are never too far from their dreams if they stay strong and healthy.
Now on its fourth year, the LSG program has visited more than 3,500 schools across the country and reached out to more than 1.8 million school children, 900,000 mothers and 40,000 teachers. In Camarines Sur, the program aims to visit 109 public schools and reach out to 66,800 kids and 32,000 mothers.
“We have come a long way with this advocacy and are happy to have touched the lives of so many children, teachers and parents. Much more needs to be done though, and we will be tirelessly pursuing our mission of reestablishing the importance of proper nutrition and milk drinking habits among kids to help address malnutrition, help them do well in school, and raise a generation of healthy Filipinos to benefit our country’s future,” said Jasmin Estacio, Consumer Marketing Manager for Bear Brand.
Encouraged by the program’s success, Nestle has plans of making the LSG program even bigger by reaching out to more schools across the country and enhancing activities it offers its participants to spread even wider its message of better nutrition and better education.