Celebrating rice, health, and nutrition
The Philippines celebrates Nutrition Month every July to create greater awareness on nutrition among Filipinos. We salute the National Nutrition Council (NNC) of the Department of Health for spearheading this nationwide campaign.
This year, Nutrition Month espouses the theme, Kalamidad paghandaan: gutom at malnutrisyon agapan (Prepare for emergencies: prevent hunger and malnutrition). The focus on nutrition in emergencies aims to provide a venue for the general public to realize the importance of preparedness and learn what recovery measures can be taken to prevent death and the worsening of malnutrition among affected groups.
IRRI has been actively participating in nutrition month activities for the past few years. In 2013, one of the highlights of the Institute’s celebration was the conduct of Kanin Get It, a one-day event that focused on tailored discussions and field tours to introduce selected media members to IRRI’s work on healthier rice.
As a development institution, IRRI believes that nutrition is a crucial component of poverty alleviation. IRRI supports NNC and the government’s call to strengthen food-based approaches to address malnutrition. We believe that the gains from increased farm productivity and income will be amplified and produce longer-term benefits if the health and nutrition of a population, especially of vulnerable communities, are enhanced. Being the staple not only of Filipinos but half of humanity, rice can play a major role, globally, in improving public health and nutrition.
There are over 120,000 types of rice in the International Genebank housed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna, and around 10,000 Philippine varieties at the Philippine Rice Research Institute Genebank in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. Taken together, these rice varieties are the raw materials that rice scientists and nutrition researchers use to improve the grain quality and nutritional aspects of rice, which has been part of the human diet for thousands of years.
Rice can indeed become part of a healthy diet and, to realize this, IRRI and PhilRice are pursuing research projects that: (a) look into the potentials of rice in providing a sustainable, diet-based source of micronutrients that could help address malnutrition problems; (b) study the glycemic index of rice and how it could still become part of a healthy diet for those who are at risk of diabetes, as well as for the average consumer; and (c) advocate for the responsible consumption of different kinds of rice, including brown rice, and minimizing wastage.
Into the future, rice will remain an important food staple for billions of people. This month and beyond, let us celebrate the potential contributions that this important crop can make for a more food- and nutrition-secure population in the Philippines and around the world.
Happy nutrition month!
About the Author
Aileen is the manager for project coordination and stakeholder advocacy for Golden Rice and healthier rice varieties at IRRI. She also worked as a communication specialist for Golden Rice.