Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition in Asia

Ensuring Household Food and Nutrition Security in Asia

Philippines: Food and nutrition security

Philippines: Food and nutrition security
29 September 2012

The Philippines seeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAms to be losing its fight against hunger as a new poll showed that more Filipino families have experienced hunger in the third quarter.

The survey, which was conducted by the Philippines’ Social Weather Station, said 21 percent or an estimated 4.3 million households experienced hunger in the last three months, compared with 18.4 percent in the previous quarter.

The survey was conducted on August 24-27, 2012 using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The poll reinforced a 2002 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which said that per capita food consumption of the rural population in the Philippines by weight has declined to 786 grams in 1993 from 863 in 1987. A similar drop was seen in the consumption of urban dwellers, to 819 grams in 1993 from 869 in 1987.

The fall in consumption is reflected in the high number of underweight children aged 0-5 years old and 6-10 years old, reaching as high as 34 percent, according to a paper commissioned by the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Development. The paper cited data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

“This low level of food consumption occurred despite allocating more than 40 percent of the total family expenditures to food in the last 21 years. In those years, food registered the highest share of expenditure at 50.7 percent in 1988 and the lowest at 41.4 percent in 2006. In 2009, food still captured a big chunk of the family budget at 42.6 percent,” said the study, which was prepared by the Xavier Science Foundation, Inc for the Asian Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition.

The study pointed out that in general, the rural population is eating less than those living in the urban areas. It cited a 2006 paper from the Food and Agriculture Organization on the dietary changes and their health implications in the Philippines.

The scoping paper said across geographical regions, food insecurity is high in the rural areas of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Regions 5, 10, 12 and 9, which are all in Mindanao except for Region 5. It added that “the difference in urban and rural poverty in the country is considerably great, but not too much in ARMM.”


Obviously, the Philippines is grappling with food security gaps despite government programs aimed at providing food and nutrition security to its citizens.

These government schemes range from school-based programs like the Food for School Program, which aims to provide food subsidies to schoolchildren per day of school, to information and education campaigns and subsidy schemes. These include feeding programs like the Food for School Program by the Departments of Education and Social Welfare and Development. The program is aimed at providing food subsidies to schoolchildren per day of school for 120 days while encouraging school attendance.

A similar program is the Healthy Start Feeding Program which provides daycare children aged 3 to 5 with hot breakfast meals or afternoon snacks five days a week.

The paper said other programs were designed to fortify nutrients consumed by the beneficiaries. These include the Nutripan sa Eskwelahan, a self-sustainable school or community bakery serving affordable iron- and Vitamin A-fortified bread and biscuits to schoolchilren; the Micronutrient Supplementation scheme  which aims to distribute Vitamin A and iron supplements to pregnant and lactating women as well as infants and adolescents; the Food Fortification scheme which came with the enactment of two laws: on compulsory enrichment of some staples with iron and/or Vitamin A; and a voluntary enrichment of processed foods with the Sangkap Pinoy Seal approval from the Department of Health, an indication of the recommended amount and type of fortification present in the food.

Information and education programs were also put in place on nutrition awareness, the scoping study said. One of the programs which called for the Teacher-Child-Parent approach,  involved interaction among teachers, pupils and parents in disseminating fundamental health and nutrition concepts.

Another scheme, called the Barangay Plan of Action for Nutrition was aimed to improve the nutritional status of women and children at the barangay level. Under the scheme, sari-sari store owners were mobilized to sell iodized salt and fortified food items.

There are also schemes that provide subsidies to beneficiaries, including programs like Tindahan Natin and the Rice Price Subsidy Program. Tindahan Natin stores aims to sell cheap but good quality rice, noodles, sugar and cooking oil to poor communities, while the rice subsidy program targets to sell affordable rice and corn at accredited market outlets.

And then there are government programs which aim to address food insecurity through more integrated programs linking supply and demand, providing support services for productivity and enhancing purchase capacity, the scoping paper said.

Among these is the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program (AHMP) which was launched in 2007. The scheme has target beneficiaries in 42 priority provinces and entails providing beneficiaries with seed subsidies, repair and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities and technical assistance. The scheme is also designed to put money into poor people’s pockets through training, microfinance, promoting nutrition through education, among others.

The Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran scheme falls under this integrated food security program. The scheme extends basic management training with interest-free, non-collateral seed fund capital to help poor under- and unemployed families. The program includes savings mobilization, capital assistance, social preparation and access to other services.

The Fertilizer, Irrigation and Infrastructure, Extension and Education, Loans, Dryers, Seeds (FIELDS) program meanwhile aims to help farmers and fishermen by stabilizing prices and increasing food availability and supply. It has six components: fertilizer, irrigation and rural infrastructure, extension services and farmer education, loans, dryers and postharvest facilities, seeds and other genetic materials.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program, launched in late 1998, is aimed at food security as well as promoting poverty alleviation and social equity, rational use of resources, sustainable development, global competitiveness, people empowerment, and protection from unfair competition.

There’s also the Food Staples Self-sufficiency Program 2011-2016, which targets the country’s food self-sufficiency by 2013. After 2013, the program aims to ensure food staples can withstand the effects of climate change.


But the paper said some comprehensive government programs have experienced difficulties in the handling and delivery of resources.

A P3-billion school-based program proved ineffective as schools did not have the necessary space for rice storage and teachers took the extra load to repack the oftentimes low-quality rice, the paper said, citing a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer alleging the program was feeding political ambitions instead.

The study also pointed to leakages and under coverage of rice delivery, implying the incidence of corruption in the Food for School program as well and the Rice Subsidy Program under the National Food Authority.

“Because some government programs are multi-anchored, failure to effectively implement their respective roles can affect the whole process,” the paper said.

On the other hand, the paper said “community-based and development-oriented aspects of most programs contribute to the successful implementation, as marked by participative beneficiaries, various sectors (e.g. children and mothers) targeted, and a good number of them.”

It said the bottom-up approach of management that considers and addresses the concerns of the provincial, municipal, and barangay levels also helped.

Integration of nutrition and food availability concepts in the schools’ subjects further reinforces the programs’ objectives, the paper said.

“Also, training beneficiaries how to sustain and manage such endeavors contribute to community development.”

The political will of the barangay captains, as in the case of the Barangay Plan of Action for Nutrition (BPAN) showed their support and can lead to a stronger implementation of the program. The program is targeted to improve the nutritional status of women and children through education, promotion of fortified food consumption and by supplementing micronutrient consumption  of the target groups.

However, the study said a law that made it mandatory for manufacturers to fortify rice, sugar and cooking oil met resistance from  businesses because of added costs. “In order to be more effective, partnerships and coordination with target recipients and other mechanisms should be strengthened,” it said.

The report said that  government-led projects, especially those centralized, must be willing to work with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which are better able to reach the rural poor.

Indeed, CSO/NGO programs are varied depending on the focus of intervention, the paper said. Their programs range from sustainable food production to policy advocacy.

For instance, the Cordillera Ecological Center, Go Organic! and Philippine NGO Coalition focus on sustainable agriculture and environmental livelihood endeavors (e.g. agroforestry, organic agriculture, alternative energy) with technical assistance, capacity building and skills trainings.

While NGOs like ANGOC focus on policy reforms through advocacy campaigns with government and donors in the Philippine Development Forum Working Group on Sustainable Rural Development.

The study said decision-making should involve NGOs as they are familiar with the situations in the localities.

“Decentralization and transparency of operations must be enhanced. With political will and proper enforcement of non-contradictory laws by the government, and NGOs’ and CSOs’ structure and pro-poor nature and goals, projects may be more effectively implemented. Sustainability plans must also be discussed regularly.”


No thanks to tighter competition for land, urbanization and even global warming, smallholder farmers face daunting challenges in putting food on the table.

“Among the vulnerable sectors, the smallholder farmers face daunting challenges with current global developments. The stability in their food production and consumption is being threatened by the increasing competition for land due to agricultural investments and urbanization,” the scoping paper said.

It said that small farmers are losing access to lands as  modern and plantation agriculture expands. “Even lands for social and religious functions are taken away. While the government may have the right intention of encouraging agricultural investments, it should include in their economic equation the food security of the rural poor. The social cost may be too high,” the scoping study said.

It added that the changing climate pattern will certainly impact on the rural poor’s food security. “As agriculture is very specific to location and sensitive to weather, the types of crops and their productivity will be greatly affected. In turn, this will affect food intake as there will be changes in taste, nutrient content and social acceptability,” the paper said.

Given the volatility of the rural poor’s food security and the seriousness of the global threats, the paper thus recommended that pilot areas in the regions with high incidences of food insecurity be implemented urgently. “Thus, LGUs [local government units’ are highly encouraged to come up with strategies in implementing and ensuring that centralized programs reach the households,” the paper said.

In the case of global warming, the paper pressed for a review and formulation of an updated comprehensive land use plan. “Community preparedness is also necessary. In predisposed areas, community food stock may also be established.”

The paper said one way of meeting the food requirements of the rural poor is to produce locally by producing substitute products, fortifying existing foods or introducing new commodities.

Improving market access is also a must, the paper said, noting better access will allow smallholder farmers to sell excess products and buy what they need. “Hopefully, this will result in better allocation of resources and satisfy their needed nutrients.”

At the same time, the paper acknowledged that such a move will require bigger government investments in farm to market roads, transport facilities, distribution centers, marketing outlets, to name a few.

“On top of these investments, the purchasing capacity of the rural poor has to be strengthened. This would imply increasing their agricultural productivity, better livelihood and employment opportunities and enhanced entrepreneurial capacities,” the paper said.

“The rural poor should be given full control of a parcel of land enough for them to produce their own food. It could be in their individual backyards or in communal lands allotted for these purposes. This will allow them greater control of their food supply producing some excess to exchange with their other food needs. If possible, tenure can be extended over a long period of time for them to invest in perennial crops such as fruits,” the paper said.

It said that at the community level, local institutions with the LGUs taking the lead can provide support facilities such as seed banks, processing plants and distribution channels.

The paper also recommended organizing the rural poor into commodity clusters to attain marketable volume, provision of postharvest and storage facilities and enhancement of their entrepreneurial capacities.


Xavier Science Foundation, Inc. (2012). Food and Nutrition Security in the Philippines: An Overview

Social Weather Station. October 2012. Third Quarter 2012 Social Weather Survey: Hunger rises to 21.0% of families. Retrieved from:

Pedro, M.R.A., Benavides, R.C. & Barba, C.V.C. (2006). Dietary changes and their health implications in the Philippines. The double burden of malnutrition: Case studies from six developing countries (FAO Food and Nutrition Papers 84). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from:


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This entry was posted on July 19, 2013 by in Food Security/Food Sovereignty.
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