On October 18, 2015, a four-woman team from Gota de Leche in Manila flew to Cebu for their quarterly nutritional outreach even with the threat of Typhoon Lando over Luzon, and fears of the Laglag-Bala scam in NAIA. They carried several boxes of meal packs prepared by Stop Hunger Now Philippines and volunteers from Hershey Philippines, and packages of milk for distribution to the kids of Sawang Calero’s daycare center. In the team’s original itinerary, the kids of Gilutongan island’s daycare center were also scheduled for feeding and medical check-up, but force majeure prevented this from happening (more on this in the next installment).
Overall improved weight and health.
The third visit to Sawang Calero’s daycare center proved promising. A quick comparison from the weight gain chart showed an average gain of 1.95 lbs among the kids in a span of three months.
The team, joined by Quota International officers Ms Mary, Ms Eliza, and Ms Niema, were there in time for the morning feeding. With over twenty kids in attendance and several mothers in the kitchen helping to prepare the meal packs, the scene was a lively one with the occasional disruption from kids running around the classroom, and the center’s administrator Ms Nora Saavedra scolding them.
A quick chat with one of the mothers in the kitchen, 27-year old Gina who is 8 months on the family way with her third child, revealed that they sometimes cook the rice packs with eggs to serve as the first meal of the day to the kids. Some of the Gota de Leche staff advised the volunteer moms on how to cook the meal packs properly, because some of the kids were complaining about its bland texture and lack of flavor.
A refrigerator with an empty freezer stands at the corner of the daycare’s kitchen. Three months before, it was filled with meat and eggs from the LGU’s own feeding program, but because the food was rationed and bidding takes some time, it didn’t take too long before the food ran out.
Quota International’s Ms Eliza explained that their partnership with Gota de Leche allows them to supply the center with a year’s worth of milk and meal packs for almost 70 kids (and sometimes, their parents). Quota also provides nutritional supplements, small repairs to the center, and allowances to the teachers. She said it only made sense to partner with Gota, given their shared vision and mission of satisfying nutritional needs of women and children.
Nutritional gender gap?
Gina admits that while both her 4-year old son and 8-year old daughter gained weight since the nutritional outreach started at Sawang Calero in June, her son’s weight gain is more noticeable. Unlike the rest of the family, her boy eats whenever he wants. Her daughter, on the other hand, already helps out with chores at home. More surveys over a longer period to observe this discrepancy is needed, but it underlines the suspected nutritional gender gap evident among very young children: girls are expected to help out at home while boys can play and eat at leisure.
Vegetable and herb garden
The center’s adviser Ms Nora Saavedra proudly showed off her upo harvest to the Gota and Quota visitors. When Dr Malu Villavicencio asked if the upo was going to be cooked with the meal packs and served to the kids, Ms Nora said she thinks it will lower the kids blood pressure. Dr Villavicencio suggested adding malunggay, kalabasa, or ampalaya to the meals for added nutrition. Ms Nora argued that doing so requires additional funds which the center does not have.
With such a strong-willed yet determined woman at the helm of Sawang Calero’s feeding program, a doctor or nutritionist on call is needed to give proper advice on feeding and medical issues. Gota and Quota are currently coordinating with the local government to make this possible.
The vegetable and herb garden, planted by Ms Nora herself, also yields oregano to treat coughs and malunggay for breastfeeding moms, much like Gota de Leche’s own vegetable garden in Manila.