In 2006, the World Food Programme (WFP) reestablished support in Mindanao by implementing food assistance, school feeding and sustainable livelihood projects to improve economic conditions. In 2018, WFP supported the implementation of Homegrown School Feeding in Maguindanao and conducted a Fill the Nutrition Gap study in all regions including BARMM as basis for a framework for a strengthened nutrition situation analysis and decision making on nutrition programs. Of the major indicators on factors affecting nutrition, BARMM was found to have high malnutrition prevalence – stunting at 39.9 percent among under-five and 38.7 percent among the school-aged children; and anemia at 17.3 percent and 16.9 percent among the pre-schoolers and school-aged children, respectively - according to the Enhanced National Nutrition Survey (eNNS). These figures, are particularly high in Maguindanao due to high food insecurity linked with economic barriers such as non-affordability of nutritious diet. With the approval of Republic Act (RA) 11037 on the National Feeding Program and the ongoing RA 8976 of the Food Fortification Act of 2000 mandating rice fortification with iron, WFP decided to conduct a pilot study on the use of iron fortified rice (IFR) for the school feeding program (SFP) in Maguindanao.
To conduct a pilot study to determine the feasibility and provide a basis for the expanded implementation on the use of IFR for the school feeding program (SFP) in Maguindanao and at the same time to improve nutritional status particularly anaemia among school children and support local food production.
Following the conduct of a desk review on the regulatory framework as basis for the use of IFR for SFP,
WFP conducted preparatory activities starting with a planning session with stakeholders and various assessments on a) iron rice premix (IRP) supply; b) rice supply particularly among the small scale farmers within the community; c) blending equipment for the production of IFR; and d) school faculties and beneficiaries. WFP then conducted an orientation for school administrators and students; procurement of commodities and services; determination of the blending ratio; production and delivery of iron fortified rice and monitoring.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:
WFP has successfully shown the feasibility of using IFR for SFP in Maguindanao for 23,000 schoolchildren in 69 schools that can be a basis for expansion in accordance with RA 11037 and RA 8976. The study objectives and challenges were addressed as follows: a) WFP was able to source the only IRP producer with necessary permits and licenses and quality control; b) increased cost due to outdated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standard based on coated IRP, however, extensive testing was conducted using extruded IRP designed for 1:200 blending ratio enabled to use of extruded IRP to comply with FDA standard at a blending ratio of 1:100;
c) NFA blending machines that were not operated for more than 10 years were revived and used for the production of IRP; d) continued perception on the unacceptable sensory and physical characteristics of IFR with coated IRP, but the use of extruded IRP resulted with no physical and sensory difference within regular rice; e) coordination and planning to ensure supply chain for IFR reaches the beneficiaries; f) the provision of 1 cup cooked IFR has provided about 2.9 mg of iron to beneficiaries; g) enabled the procurement of rice from 3 farmer cooperatives even though they lack quality requirements.
The pilot study was able to determine the required policy and technical assistance (TA) to reduce the cost and facilitate the implementation of the use of IFR for SFP as follows: a) TA for other producers of IRP to have the necessary permits and licenses; b) approval of amended draft FDA standard for IRP; c) for NFA to revive its blending machines nationwide and provide funds for the production of IFR; d) social marketing campaign for IFR; e) TA to farmers’ cooperatives to improve quality for rice and ensure their financial viability.