Hidden Hunger

COMBATTING IRON DEFICIENCY IN THE PHILIPPINES WITH SNACKS

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Across the Philippines, a country of almost 100 million people, malnutrition is far too common. Many cases are caused by deficiencies in micronutrients, including protein-energy malnutrition, iodine deficiency disorder, vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency. Despite its importance, especially in children, iron deficiency has not received enough attention. A coordinated team of Impact Centre staff and Pueblo Science volunteers have been working to overcome this challenge by fortifying common children’s snacks with rice bran, which is rich in iron and vitamins.

Snacking is very common in the Philippines. Both adults and children will eat multiple times over the course of a day, usually purchasing their snacks from sari-sari shops which line the streets. This project takes advantage of that habit by creating a snack that not only tastes good but can help overcome iron deficiency.

The rice bran that the team uses is considered a waste product of rice production and is widely available across the Philippines. Working with the Food Centre in Saskatchewan Canada, as well as the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto, they created test batches of the snacks and conducted nutrient analysis and quantification. Taste tasting was performed with kids both in Toronto and in Illocos Norte, Philippines.

To further promote healthy eating in the Philippines the team partnered with Pueblo Science to distribute information and hands-on experiments to 700 science teachers. These experiments will help the teachers discuss food, food safety and healthy eating habits with thousands of students across the country.

Looking forward, the team has engaged store owners, snack manufacturers, distributors, grain millers, researchers, and government officials to obtain their feedback on the snack product, as well as the business model logistics and potential for financing.

Summary

  • Creating children’s snacks to combat iron deficiency in the Philippines
  • Created and tested different forms of the snacks for taste and nutrient composition
  • Worked with Pueblo Science to provide education materials and hands-on experiments to 700 science teachers across the Philippines to reach thousands of students across the country.