The COVID-19 pandemic continues to enormously impact the country’s economic and healthcare systems and also the nutritional and food security status of Filipinos.
This is according to the Rapid Nutrition Assessment Survey (RNAS) by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
Moreover, the RNAS, conducted from 3 November to 3 December 2020, provided snapshots of the nutrition and food security situation of Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces and highly urbanized cities (HUCs) covered by the RNAS were clustered into major island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and categorized further into low-, medium-, and high-risk COVID-19 infection.
This grouping was based on the Inter-Agency Task Force on Infectious and Emerging Diseases (IATF) classification issued on 15 July 2020, according to the number of COVID-19 positive cases reported by the Department of Health (DOH) NCOV tracker as of 16 July 2020.
The RNAS covered a total of 5,717 households with 7,240 individuals, with mothers or caregivers as respondents on behalf of their young children.
Survey results showed that six out of 10 or 62.1% of surveyed households reported they experienced moderate to severe food insecurity, and that food security is highest in households with children (7 out of 10) and households with pregnant members (8 out of 10).
Food insecurity is the state in which people are at risk or actually suffering from inadequate consumption to meet nutritional requirements. Food insecurity is a result of the physical unavailability of food, people’s lack of social or economic access to adequate food, and/or inadequate food utilization, according to the Global Forum on Food Security of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2012).
The survey also revealed that food insecurity peaked between April and May 2020 during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
Food-insecure families adapted through various coping strategies to avail of food during the pandemic.
These included purchasing of food on credit (71.7%), borrowing food from relatives and/or neighbors (66.3%), through barter (30.2%), while some adults reported that they limited their food intake in favor of children (21.1%).
Historically, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of food-insecure households from 2018 to 2019, based on the Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of DOST-FNRI.
The ENNS showed that food-insecure households increased to 64.1% in 2019 from 53.9% in 2018.
Furthermore, food insecurity was higher in rural areas, male-headed households, poor households, households with heads with lower educational attainment, and households engaged in agriculture, the ENNS further revealed.
Proper nutrition is essential especially during pandemics and calamities to stay healthy by boosting immunity and avoiding contracting COVID-19 and other diseases.
As part of DOST-FNRI’s interventions to help mitigate food insecurity, the Institute implemented programs like the Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP), an integrated intervention strategy involving nutrition education and transfer of food technologies through its Technology Transfer programs. DOST-FNRI also have the Oh My Gulay! which models the establishment of edible garden in offices in urban areas.