STATISTICS from the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) showed that 1 out of 3 Filipino children below 5 years old is stunted, a chronic form of malnutrition, the highest percentage in three periodic surveys.
The FNRI continues to envision a better Philippines where children, adults and elderly all live a healthy lifestyle away from nutrition-related diseases. It strives for well-nourished nation through programs, technologies and campaigns fit for every population.
The FNRI is mandated to determine the nutritional status of the country. For it to happen, the Institute conducts national nutrition surveys to determine the prevalence of malnutrition across all ages nationwide. Second, the FNRI develops tools and policy recommendations for reference and implementation by appropriate agencies. These provide standards such as the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes in food products, which is now the Philippine Dietary Reference Intake.
Due to the importance of proper knowledge on nutrition, the FNRI makes sure on its third mandate that there’s a diffusion of information to relevant stakeholders. It transfers food technologies and disseminates research outputs to build socio-economic capacity and promote nutritional well-being. The FNRI partners with public and private companies and the media in order to have a larger reach.
In 2014 the FNRI came up with a simpler concept of a food guide that aligns with the nutritional food pyramid and that fits the eating habits of an average Filipino. Formative research results included suggestions like having a bahay kubo, an icon familiar to the Filipinos, represent the food guide. However, they ended up with the predominant theme suggestion of pinggan, which literally means food plate that all diners in the country are accustomed to. Pinggan is a daily kitchenware in the Filipino table.
The plate-based food guide “Pinggang Pinoy”, the brainchild of formative research done by the FNRI in partnership with the Department of Health, National Nutrition Council of the Department of Health with support from the World Health Organization first emerged in 2014. However, it was only for one particular age group—the adults. It is a simple representation of “Go, Grow and Glow,” a food-grouping concept that everyone is familiar with. Half of the plate must contain fruits and vegetables, while the other half is energy-giving foods like rice and protein sources like fish.
In the succeeding years of the campaign, its reach grew bigger. In 2015 Pinggang Pinoy served all the age groups: pregnant/lactating women, kids, teens, adults and the elderly. This was the same year the agency received the Institutional Award from Health & Lifestyle magazine wherein the promotion efforts for Pinggang Pinoy was recognized.
Goldilocks, one of the most popular food chains in the country, adapted the concept of Pinggang Pinoy through a meal called Sarap Pinggang Pinoy meal 1. The meal contains Daing na Bangus with Ginisang Monggo, rice, a fruit cup and water. Goldilocks was supposed to launch this as a limited-edition meal but, due to positive feedback in sales, they made it a mainstay on their menu. They even came up with another set called Sarap Pinggang Pinoy meal 2 consisting of Daing na Bangus, Pinakbet, rice, a fruit cup and water. The campaign Pinggang Pinoy has been around for almost four years, and, each year, it gains more following and support because more people are gaining awareness about the country’s crisis involving food shortage and malnutrition. The FNRI dubbed 2017 as the official Year of Pinggang Pinoy, claiming victory on its advocacy.
Meanwhile, Robinsons Supermarket also introduced a campaign to promote the cause of Pinggang Pinoy. In January this year, it launched “Eat the Rainbow”, where customers get to buy fruits and vegetables through colored bundles representing the colors of the rainbow. During Saturdays and Sundays, all the colored bundles are available, and customers who buy three bundles are given a Pinggang Pinoy eco bag. It ran for the whole month of January and, with the good reviews, the company will regularly feature Eat the Rainbow every January. The FNRI sees its fight against malnutrition as a mission rather than a task. It continues to stand tall for 70 years now in addressing malnutrition through nutritional assessment, tools, guidelines and standards to serve the needs of nutrition and nutrition-related workers.
Dr. Milflor S. Gonzales and Ms. Marilou R. Galang, along with the whole staff of the FNRI, continue to spread the word of Pinggang Pinoy to Filipinos. Impact is long term, Gonzales said, but they remain positive of the change their campaign may bring to the improved nutritional status of the Philippines. They treat this as a positive challenge to everyone, and themselves as well, on bringing better health to each and everybody’s household.