By Justinne Lou Go, RND
TO CONCLUDE my Nutrition Month topics, I think it should be apt for the last article of this month to put the spotlight on the Nutrition Month theme this year, “Ugaliing magtanim, sapat na nutrisyon aanihin!” as published by the National Nutrition Council (NNC). I intentionally devoted this topic for the end of the month to encourage you to consider pursuing this initiative even after this month’s celebrated theme.
This year’s Nutrition Month campaign “aims to contribute to improved nutrition through improved food access by increasing the number of households, schools, and communities engaged in food gardening.” (NNC Talking Points 2018)
I am so glad this year’s nutrition month theme is highlighting the incorporation of food gardens across all communities. I believe it is a timely campaign as it seems to affirm one of my predictions for this year’s health and wellness trends published in the beginning of this year in this magazine — urban gardening.
Being a third world country, food security is among the greatest challenges we face, making it the greatest contributor to the persisting high prevalence of malnutrition among the underprivileged population. I have always believed that home gardening is among the best solutions to address this problem and it would be really great if we could incorporate this into the school systems. Well, there has been an ongoing gardening program developed and implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) since 2007 called the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) which encourages public schools to establish gardens to ensure continuous supply of vegetables for school feeding. Data has shown that that program has been successful but I think it still needs to be followed up for consistent implementation. Also, I think this practice shouldn’t just be implemented in public schools but encouraged in private schools as well. Vegetable gardening would be one of the best avenues to introduce nutrition to children, especially if the school garden was used to supply the school’s canteen to produce healthy meals for the students. Imagine if that was implemented in all private schools.
I’d love to do a study on that if it were happening, to see the effects of that kind of system on building the youth’s eating habits, specifically on food preferences.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, food gardens address food and nutrition security by providing direct access to a variety of nutritionally-rich foods; increase purchasing power from savings; generate additional income; and provide fallback during disasters and seasonal lean periods. From that statement, we can infer that food gardening can impact the economical, social and nutritional status of individuals and communities. Not to mention, it promotes education and awareness on the kinds of food that we feed ourselves and how food is produced as well as instant basic nutrition knowledge of being familiar with different kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Now, you may think that gardening would be a challenge especially in the urban setting. With the steadily growing urban jungle in the metro, farming may be out of the question and home gardening may seem limited to herb pots in the kitchen. However, technology can play a symbiotic role in this movement where it offers the possibility of still being able to have a thriving sustainable garden of basic kitchen herbs and vegetables despite the seeming lack of space.
Hydroponic gardening is actually an ancient method that is slowly making a comeback in the modern world. First world countries like Singapore, Japan and many European nations have already tapped into this technology to address the ever growing food supply demands of the industry. But, this technology does not have to be limited to industrial use. It may well be the next big thing in the near future, a ubiquitous sight that will invade the urban jungle, truly putting the “jungle” in the urban.
There are several types of urban gardening methods — vertical gardening, container gardening, hydroponics, to name a few. Whatever your urban gardening choices may be, this would be a good habit to build, worth the investment and time for all the benefits it can provide. So, why not consider starting your own home garden now?