A famous proverb teaches that it takes a village to raise a child. Nowhere is this truer than in Malabon City, where an entire community has made it a mission to raise a healthy young population.
Led by Mayor Antolin ‘Len’ Oreta III, Malabon over the last three years has embarked on a series of programs to combat childhood malnutrition. In the past, Malabon was ranked as having one of the highest incidences of malnutrition, with a stunting rate of 16.3% in 2013, according to data from the National Nutrition Council (NNC). Malnutrition not only causes stunting, but it also leads to poor academic performance and social participation.
“Building a healthy youth sector in Malabon is a key thrust of the city. Malnutrition has been a challenge in Malabon, and one can only fight a grassroots-level problem with a grassroots-driven solution,” shared Mayor Oreta.
In 2016, Malabon began conducting an annual 90-day feeding program to improve food intake of underweight children identified through Operation Timbang (OPT) Plus. In true spirit of bayanihan, businesses and organizations in Malabon and nearby cities donated many key food ingredients for the program.
“There was a misconception in the community that healthy food is expensive. We conducted an education campaign where we showed our fellow Malabonians that one can make healthy dishes using available ingredients at a very low cost. This was important to sustain the nutrition program and bring the message inside the homes of Malabonians,” said Chef Melissa Oreta, Malabon First Lady and City Nutrition Action Officer, who designed the menu for the feeding program.
Interestingly, Mayor Oreta also saw a huge opportunity to harness the unique culinary culture of Malabon –home to many famous delicacies – to address the high incidence of malnutrition. In March 2018, the city launched the “Karinderia para sa Kalusugan ni Chikiting (KKC)” project, a program that involved existing carinderia owners in providing nutritious hot meals to undernourished children aged six to 59 months for 120 days. City nutritionists guided partner carinderias with prescribed cycle menu.
Recently, the Oreta couple congratulated the third batch of KCC beneficiaries, numbering to around 1,000 children and nutritionally at-risk pregnant women.
“It is inspiring to see Malabonians helping fellow Malabonians in the true spirit of bayanihan.Through these programs, we are able to harness the strong sense of community of Malabonians, allowing them to use their culinary talent and resources to improve our city,” said Mayor Oreta.
The series of nutrition programs in Malabon have been acclaimed as a pioneer in Metro Manila, but the positive results were equally overwhelming. The latest data from the NNC shows that Malabon’s stunting rate fell to 5.84% in 2018 from a double-digit figure four years ago. Attendance of beneficiaries in the feeding programs was also noted at 100%, which is attributed to the fact that the meals were not only nutritious, but also appetizing.
Now, Mayor Oreta is focused on a child’s first 1,000 days of life, where nutrition is most critical. By targeting this stage in the life of a child, the government believes zero stunting can be achieved by 2022.
The programs have also earned Malabonians another reason to be proud of their city. This year, Malabon was hailed by the NNC as the “Most Innovative in Nutrition Program Implementation and Management.” In 2017 and 2018, Malabon won multiple categories, namely “Very Satisfactory in Nutrition Program Management,” “LGU with Continuous Improvement in Nutrition Program Management,” and “Best LGU in Resource Generation and Mobilization.”
The KKC is implemented in 21 barangays of Malabon City. In 2018, two batches of feeding program catered to 1,016 beneficiaries. In 2019, the KKC reached 1,000 beneficiaries where 617 are babies six to 23 months old, 255 are from 24 to 59 months old, while 128 are nutritionally-at-risk pregnant mothers.