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Language of love

TEACHING about the value of good nutrition should not be limited to lectures and discussions inside the classroom if it were to be real and effective. It should also be taught in school canteens.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has, for years, advocated for good nutrition by regulating the kinds of food in school canteens. The recent DepEd order strengthening existing policies and strategies on the “teaching” of the value of good nutrition reflects the agency’s responsiveness to nutritional realities in our country.

The new DepEd order is in response to the results of the 8th National Nutrition Survey. According to the survey, 59% of children with ages ranging from five to ten years are either underweight or with stunted growth, 8.6% of the children are with low weight-for-height ratio, and 9.1% of them are overweight. Only 23.3% of Filipino children are properly nourished.

The need for DepEd to do more than what it currently does is obvious. While nutritional deficiencies of Filipino children are not only dependent on what are being taught in schools about nutrition and the food sold in school canteens (as they also depend on nutritional realities at home and in the community), it is commendable for DepEd to explore what more can it do to address the nutrition problems in our country, particularly those that affect our children.

The DepEd order provides for, among others, the color coded classification of foods and the corresponding actions that need to be taken for each “color.” Green-coded foods should always be available in school canteens because they both nutritious and affordable. Yellow-coded foods should be served with “caution” (in terms of frequency and quantity) because they can contribute to excess calories when eaten frequently and in large amounts. Red-coded foods are not recommended for school canteens because of the high amounts of saturated fats, sugar, or salt in them.

The red-coded foods should not only be “not recommended” but should be totally banned in school canteens.

In “walking its talk” about nutrition, the DepEd order also prohibits the marketing of those considered as unhealthy foods and drinks like junk foods and soda. The order also covers not just schools but also DepEd offices.

The initiative of DepEd should inspire and motivate parents to be on guard as well against unhealthy foods that they feed their children, including the “baon” that they prepare for them.

It is time for us to be more conscious about what we eat and what we feed to our children, after all, nutrition is a powerful language of love. (Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate)