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"DOST researchers look deeper into the benefits of available food materials to develop emergency foods that do not only aim to instantly fill hungry stomachs especially in disaster-stricken areas but also provide nutrients for everyday needs."

Let's face it. The Philippines will always face natural disasters and calamities due to its geographical location and natural makeup. These will always pose major setbacks to the country and rebuilding disaster-stricken areas will also always be a challenge.

One of the immediate tasks in responding to disasters is providing food and nutrition tovictims who are not only physically battered but also emotionally and economically. Being in these sensitive situations, there is a need to consider all factors that would hasten the rebuilding process. While it is always welcome to send food and other necessities to disaster areas, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is making a difference by providing food that are not only instant but also full of the required nutrients that are needed by victims especially during disasters. According to UNICEF, natural disasters together with over-reliance on rice and low levels of breastfeeding have left Filipino children among the most malnourished in South East Asia.

The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the DOST (DOST-PCIEERD) takes charge of the overall program of the DOST on climate change adaptation and mitigation disaster risk reduction (DRR) andmanagement. The development of relief foods or emergency foods has become part of this overall program.

Making a difference

In developing relief foods, there are certain conditions to consider like the utilities that become unavailable (water and electricity service) up to what extent or duration, and the population in the area (elderly, adults, children and infants).

On the other hand, in providing relief foods, there are three stages to go through. This means that at every stage, there are appropriate relief goods that should be given not justfor the purpose of feeding but meeting the objectives of helping the victims cope faster and feel better.

The first stage is immediately after disaster where power, gas and water are cut off. Survivors need food that can be eaten without water and drinkables, and without cooking.

The second stage is upon the restoration of power and other utilities. Survivors can make use of emergency instant food requiring hot water or cooking.

The third stage is when all utilities are back on line allowing survivors to use equipment and prepare foods sent as relief from outside the disaster zone. It is at this stage that nutritious foods or supplements are provided to survivors.

The DOST researchers/nutritionists from the Industrial Technology Development Institute(DOST-ITDI) and the Food Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) carefully considered all these factors and have come up with various disaster or emergency foods based on the following standard categories: ?
?Category A – includes foods that do not require preparation and consumed?without drinkables ?like arroz caldo. This corresponds to the first stage of?disaster or at least satisfying hunger for two days after a disaster

Category B – are also foods that need no preparation but are consumed with ?a drinkable like biscuits and crackers

?Category C – includes foods eaten by adding or immersing in hot water like instant?noodles and pre-gelatinized rice

?Category D – are foods that must be cooked like rice

Packing Disaster/Emergency Foods with needed Nutritional Value

The country's propensity to natural disasters and calamities is a challenge to everyone as these happen every year. Developing disaster or emergency foods likewise becomes essential. This became the very reason why the DOST researchers/nutritionists took on the challenge because in their heart and mind, their aim is not only to satisfy hunger but toprovide the much-needed nutrients, ease of life, and the uplifting effects that good-tasting and nutritious foods can provide. Afterall, the easiest way to anyone's heart nowadays is through the stomach for young or old, men or women.

The DOST-ITDI and the DOST-FNRI have conducted extensive research and development to come up with disaster/emergency foods. These foods are known as ready-to-eat (RTE) complementary foods in paste form. They are specially designed to meet the nutritional requirements of children aged 6 months to 3 years. They are high in energy with a rich, nutty chocolate flavor, provides minerals and vitamins such as folate, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamins A and C. They are also suitable in improving the nutritional needs of moderately to severely malnourished children.

Among the food materials used for the development of the RTEs is brown rice, a whole grain hulled or unmilled rice. It has a mild, nutty flavor, and is chewier and more nutritious than white rice. Science-based evidence showed that brown rice has high dietary fiber content, lower glycemic index and higher satiety value than well-polished rice.

In developing RTEs from brown rice is hitting two birds with one stone because as they say in spite of its rich components, brown rice is not preferred over white rice due to its dark appearance and hard texture. The developed RTE from brown rice promotes the advantages of brown rice as well as serve not only as emergency food but also as a source of nutrients for everyone.

With all ingredients in place, the DOST researchers/nutritionists carefully added in the development of the disaster/emergency foods the following: safety, tastiness or palatability, shelf-life, easy-to-open packaging and completeness in nutrition.

The DOST now offers appropriate emergency or disaster foods based on the 4 categories:

For Category A, the following are dishes:

?1. RTE Chicken Arroz Caldo (with pic)

  • 200 g per pouch
  • About 180 calories/pouch
  • Lightweight and very handy packaging
  • Designed to withstand aerial distribution of about 800-1000 ft.

?2. RTE Corn Soup

  • 200 g per pouch
  • About 100 calories/pouch
  • Shelf stable for at least one year

For Category B, disaster victims can nibble the following:

?1. RTE Brown Rice Bar

  • Functional food from brown rice
  • 25 g with 110 calories per pack,
  • Provides vitamins and minerals such as phosphorous, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, vitamins B1 and B
  • Lightweight and handy
  • Shelf-stable for 8 months

?2. Vegetable-Rich Choco Bar: A Compact Nutri Food

  • Available in two variances – semi-sweet green chocolate bar using white chocolate and brown chocolate bar
  • 30 g/pack
  • Packed in metalized pouches to withstand floods and aerial drop
  • Appropriate for all age groups
  • Shelf-life of 12 months at room temperature

?3. Vegetable-Rich Baked Polvoron: A Compact Nutri Food

  • 30 g per pack
  • Packed in metalized pouches to withstand floods and aerial drop
  • Shelf-life and storage of 12 months at room temperature
  • For age 5 years and above

?4. Micronutrients Growth Mix (MGM)

  • Small sachets (2g) containing blends of micronutrients in powder (MNP) form
  • Similar to MNP distributed by DOH, UNICEF and WFP
  • Shelf life of 1 year

?5. Instant Meals

  • Available in 3 variants: pork adobo, beef steak, seafood mix
  • Ideal for children and adults particularly during emergency
  • Already produced commercially by Five N and One Food Corporation

?6. RTE Rice Meals

  • Includes chicken adobo rice meal, beef tapa rice meal, and smoked fish rice meal in 200 g per pouch
  • Considered as shelf stable for at least 1 year
  • Packaging is lightweight and very handy
  • Designed to withstand aerial distribution of about 800-1000 ft.

Category C, just add hot water and eat!

The DOST-ITDI also came to the rescue and developed ready-to-serve reserve nutrifood that is versatile reserve food in calamity-stricken areas.

?1. Nutri Flour: Sagip Powder

  • 250 g or 1kg per pack
  • Packed in nylon PE pouches to withstand floods and aerial drop
  • Shelf life and storage of 5 years at room temperature
  • Estimated product cost is P80.00/kg
  • Could be made into food bars, cookies, cakes, pudding, porridge or soup
  • Convenient! Just add hot water

?2. DOST-FNRI Rice-Mongo Complementary Foods

  • Rice-mongo instant blend
  • Rice-mongo-sesame ready-to-cook blend
  • Rice-mongo curls
  • Already commercially-produced

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Gets on Board

The say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

What is most rewarding after taking challenges to be of help to countrymen is when the target clients or users actually use the products that were locally developed.

The DSWD is the government arm that looks into social welfare and development that envisions a society where the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged are empowered for an improved quality of life. It has dipped in the bowl and testing the DOST-developed disaster/emergency foods that are safe, palatable, in easy-open pouches, and most importantly nutrient-packed.

At present, the DSWD ordered the first batch of the following emergency food products:

  1. RTE Brown Rice ?– 168,525 bars
  2. Micronutrient Growth Mix (MGM)?- 101,115 pcs
  3. Vegetable-Rich Choco Bar?- 168,525 pcs
  4. Vegetable-Rich Baked Polvoron?- 168,525 pcs
  5. RTE Arroz Caldo?- (negotiations on-going)

The distribution of the RTE chicken arroz caldo will also be simulated using DSWD protocols on warehousing, aerial drop, floating and submerging in water.

The development and production of ready-to-eat foods is DOST's response to two important problems that the country faces – the problem of malnutrition and immediate task of responding to victims of disaster-stricken areas. This also complements all the efforts of the government for disaster risk reduction or mitigation.

Science and technology are in the core of these R&D activities. Science works but we need to make them work for us in everyday life. One of our long-time strategy to be able to push our development goals is still the concerted efforts of government agencies and non-government agencies could push our efforts for resiliency in whatever disaster that the country may face. (Maria Elena A. Talingdan, DOST-PCIEERD)