For a more effective school feeding program, BIG and fortified is the way to go, according to Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
BIG refers to bio-intensive garden which, when paired with iron fortified rice, helps improve the nutritional status of kids. This is actually what the joint study of DOST-FNRI, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) and Department of Education (DepEd) found out.
As the joint study consisting of a school-based feeding program that tapped bio-intensive garden (BIG) and used iron fortified rice resulted in a significant improvement in the nutritional status of the participants, DOST-FNRI now recommends the BI and fortified rice approach.
Bio-intensive gardening is an organic planting method that uses diversified cropping and deep bed preparation of plots. Meanwhile, iron fortified rice, developed by experts of DOST-FNRI, is a blend of premixed iron-fortified rice grains with ordinary rice.
Participants of the joint study were more than 200 underweight and/or anemic children from three schools. Two schools served as intervention group and the third was thecontrol group which received the usual feeding program of DepEd. All participating schools were located in Cavite.
Participants from Felipe Calderon Elementary School were served iron fortified rice (IFR group), while Gen. Aloño Memorial Elementary School students were served ordinary rice (OR group). Both schools however used the same meal plans prepared by FNRI and used produce from their gardens in making their meals.
Felipe Calderon Elementary School posted the highest reduction in wasting (low weight for height)and a significant decrease in underweight children among the three groups.
The study also indicated a significant reduction in anemia prevalence from 20.8 percent down to 4.2percent in the group that consumed iron-fortified rice compared with the control group and the group that ate ordinary rice.
In addition, consuming school-grown vegetables also generated some P 8,851.53 savings compared with the usual school feeding program.
The school lunch feeding lasted for 120 days, and was complemented with nutrition education among school children and parents. IIRR meanwhile provided the training for bio-intensive gardening to the teachers and students of the schools involved.
The Department of Education plans to replicate the program in other schools for the next school year.
Dr. Ella Cecilla Naliponguit, director of Health and Nutrition Center of DepEd noted that both school feeding and school gardens are already part of DepEd’s program, but this joint project with DOST-FNRI and IIRR is the first serious attempt to integrate the two.
The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by DOST-FNRI in 2008 reported that about four million children were undernourished. (S&T Media Service)