Thursday, November 1, 2012

3.41-M malnourished kids

People's Tonight
October 31, 2012

By Winston A. Marbella

A novel teachers' feeding program has inspired a local cooking oil manufacturer to join the worldwide fight against hunger with the introduction of polenta, a corn-based super food that is cheaper than rice but more nutritious.

Polenta was rolled out initially in the corn-eating regions of the Visayas and Mindanao as part of its corporate social responsibility program by Limketkai Manufacturing, makers of several brands of healthy cooking oils.

Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, in a recent interview by a foreign magazine, said corn was responsible for his punching power.

Limketkai said the new product  supports United Nations and World Health Organization efforts to combat hunger worldwide, especially among children. It is sold at P23 per kilo, or P10 cheaper than the cheapest rice.


Polenta is an Italian word for ground cornmeal that is all-natural and fat-free and used in many traditional dishes;

Polenta is even more popular than pasta in Northern Italy.  Under various names, it is also very common   in Mexico, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland;

In the Philippines, several regions in the Visayas use polenta as bugas mais (corn rice).  It is also a cheaper and healthier alternative to white rice because of its nutritive content.

Nutrition info 

Instead of the more widespread white corn polenta, Marca Leon offers yellow corn polenta, considered to be healthier than white corn  because the yellow pigment indicates a higher Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A) content.

Polenta is high in iron,  necessary for oxygen transport in the blood and energy production; and B vitamin complex, which  helps break down carbohydrates, protein and fats.

In eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the Philippines is behind by at least six years and at most eight years in achieving its goals. Prevalence of underweight children is yet to be halved, and incidence of poverty in the population has not improved either, according to the United Nations Millennium Development goals. 

Intrepid teachers

The Limketkai healthy nutrition program was inspired by a Department of Education project to support  a low-cost but effective way to fight malnutrition among schoolchildren.  The DepEd is turning small patches of idle land into gardens for growing vegetables.  

Then, some enterprising teachers take over.  They make healthy vegetable soup for the children in makeshift soup kitchens.  

With a pinch of salt and pepper, a dash of ingenuity, and a splash of love, they may yet win the battle against hunger much faster than the Departments of Health and Social Welfare combined.

Taking special interest in the subject, CNN featured the intiative in a recent documentary: Vegetable growing and feeding is now happening in half of the DepEd’s 42,000 schools, CNN reported. 

Healthy oil

To support the war on malnutrition, Limketkai is also  conducting an educational campaign to reduce unhealthy fats in the diets of school children to cut the risk of high cholesterol,  hypertension and heart disease in adulthood.

Limketkai promotes corn oil as a healthy alternative to bad fats.  .
Corn oil is naturally rich in beta carotene, vitamin E, niacin and lecithin, all needed for good health.

Corn oil also has only 13% saturated fat, compared to olive oil, 15%,  palm oil, 51%, and coconut oil, 91%.  Corn oil thus can control and not add to the total cholesterol in the body.  It is also rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 for good health.

Corn oil is rich in nutrients which protect the body from certain types of cancer such as prostrate, breast and colon. It is also free of trans fats associated with hypertension according to  medical studies.

The  educational campaign aims to reduce the increasing consumption of harmful fats in junk food, especially among children.    

Many school kids are so severely malnourished their fragile minds have been impaired by poor diets forever.
Hidden hunger
Senator Ed Angara notes that  

“The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children Fund have classified hidden hunger in the Philippines as severe, the second worst category (globally).

“Our own National Nutrition Survey found that 2.9 million children of primary school age were underweight, while 3.41 million had stunted growth,” Angara said.  

(The author is chief executive of a think tank specializing in responsible public policy and business strategy;  e-mail