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Depoliticizing the nutribun

July 21, 2019

Man does not live by bread alone. But for those born in the latter half of the 1960s and who later went to public elementary school in the Philippines in the early 1970s, they can — and did — with the nutribun, “a bread borne out of good intentions,” according to an online report.

The nutribun, whose primary ingredients were wheat flour and non-fat dry milk powder, was designed as a convenient “ready-to-eat complete meal” for feeding programs in public elementary schools in economically depressed areas in the Philippines. The intended beneficiaries were mostly children weighing below the normal weight for their age.

Aimed at combating child malnutrition in the country, the nutribun owed its presence in the poor localities to a joint effort of the United States and Philippine agencies, along with some local bakeries.

The arrangement was that the US, through the Food for Peace program and a nonprofit charity, CARE, facilitated donations of the main components of the bread.

A round, compact and heavy bread (the dough weighed 170 to 190 grams after all, compared with a regular pan de sal with only 25 to 30 grams), the nutribun targeted a specific demographic.

But, later on, it could be purchased commercially in some bakeries, introducing the bread to more consumers outside of the feeding programs, as well as to typhoon victims in the early 1970s when it was the survival food of usually poor victims.

“The bread inadvertently became a polarizing figure of the Marcos era, with some people remembering it with nostalgia and some regarding it with disdain,” according to the online report, and “an infamous [one] strongly connected to a period in Philippine history described as tumultuous — or peaceful — depending on which side you’re on.”

Eventually, the 1986 EDSA popular uprising that overthrew the Marcos regime rendered the nutribun stale, consumed by shifting political tides that swept to the sea any and everything that reeked of “dictatorship.”

Recently, it was reported that the Duterte administration plans to bring back the nutribun to the table of public elementary schools.

It may be a worthy experiment that should be tried again, if only to ensure that poor kids from poor communities across the archipelago arrive at their schools with a delicious bread that would ease their hunger, at least for a day.

Perhaps, the effort would also sit well among many impoverished Filipino families whose school-aged children go to school on an empty stomach, as well as a timely response to findings of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey released on Saturday.

The number of Filipinos that saw themselves as poor rose to 11.1 million families during the second quarter of 2019, according to the survey. It showed 45 percent of 1,200 respondents rated themselves poor — 7 percentage points above the 38 percent or an estimated 9.5 million recorded in March 2019.

“The rise in the proportion of self-rated poor families comes after a 14-point decline over the previous three quarters. It went down from 52 percent in September 2018, to 50 percent in December, and then to 38 percent in March 2019,” the SWS said.

The poll also found that of the 45 percent who saw themselves as poor, 4.8 percent were “newly poor,” or not poor one to four years ago; 3.3 percent were “usually poor,” or used to be non-poor, five or more years ago; and 36.9 percent were “always poor” or have never experienced being non-poor.

The SWS said the median poverty threshold — or the monthly home expense budget “that poor families need in order for their food not be considered poor” — is P20,000 in Metro Manila, P12,000 in balance Luzon, P10,000 in the Visayas and P15,000 in Mindanao.

For those who subsist on way below any of that, eating a full hearty meal once a day is a luxury. Most likely, their children have not known what a fancy birthday cake looks like. Let these children have the nutribun again. It could mean survival for many of them.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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