You probably heard the recent commotion about rising global food prices and thought momentarily about how this would inconvenience your life and your bank balance; but did you ever take into consideration the millions of people in low income and impoverished communities that spend more than 80% of their daily budget on food?
We don’t want to preach, but unfortunately hunger and malnourishment is a harsh reality in the developing world and is something that as an organization we regularly come into contact with. Despite being a country with vast resources, fertile land and an abundance of crops, the Philippines, like many other developing nations in South East Asia still suffer from poverty related malnourishment, an issue which is further exacerbated by the relatively low public awareness on the importance of nutrition.
Over the years, Volunteer for the Visayans (VFV) has treated the issue of hunger and undernourishment with the urgency it deserves, successfully managing to implement supplementary feeding into its core programs and social welfare services. For example children enrolled on our Child Sponsorship Program are provided with a daily feeding every morning, whilst families enrolled on similar welfare projects such as our Dumpsite Project also receive regular grocery subsidies and supplementary feeding.
Since June 2010, VFV has furthered its support in the field of nutrition and hunger to additional communities by pairing six month supplementary feeding projects with relevant and appropriate nutritional education as part of its Nutrition Volunteer Project. In recent months, the project has visited High Schools, entertained Elementary grade pupils and instructed a variety of different mothers groups on the importance of nutrition and how to maximize their daily food budgets.
As food prices continue to increase and little is done to improve the socioeconomic status of vulnerable communities, supplementary feeding seems to be the only measure to combat hunger and malnourishment. In the first two months of VFV’s most recent project in Tanauan, Leyte there has been a 36% decrease in the number of enrolled children who fall beneath the 5th percentile of weight for their age, it has also seen a mean increase of 0.77 kilo’s amongst its regular clientele of 31 pre-school children.
Despite our success, Volunteer for the Visayans does value sustainability and are well aware that short term hand outs will not alleviate long term problems, which is why we’ve spent the past months brainstorming further developments for our nutrition project. In particular we’ve reflected on our past plans, liaised with international nutrition experts and used our growing experience to plan out new ventures.
One thing in particular that we’ve learnt from our prior feeding programs is that it is more cost-effective to feed children as a group than as individuals which is why we’re hoping for positive community feedback regarding our evolution from supplementary feeding to community kitchens. In principle, this second phase of our project would mean that community mothers would pay as little as 10 pesos a day to provide a fulfilling healthy meal for their child. At the same time, the provision of small community vegetable gardens would allow communities to contribute homegrown vegetables to the project and reduce overheads. The hypothesis of the project is that VFV will be able to build trust and understanding with a local community through the first six months of supplementary feeding before manipulating the structure of the project into a community kitchen which is funded at very low cost by the community itself. As the community kitchen continues, dependency on VFV for supplementary feeding will reduce and the community kitchen will eventually become self-sustainable; in turn it is expected that the number of undernourished children in that community will diminish as the overall public health for the community rises.
We’ve worked extensively over the last eight years to promote and harness local communities to work together to overcome the common problems brought on by poverty; but we cannot do it alone, if you think you can contribute your expertize to this project, why not consider being a Nutrition Volunteer. Alternatively you could also make a financial donation.
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