This year’s nutrition month carries a message born from a growing concern on health in newborns. The National Nutrition Council (NNC) Technical Committee announced last March that this nutrition month’s theme will be “Malnutrisyon patuloy na labanan, first 1,000 days tutukan!” as they anticipate the malnutrition problem in the Philippines to worsen due to the pandemic.

A newborn’s first 1,000 days are critical to a child’s development. Foundations for the child’s health, growth, and neurodevelopment throughout their life are established in this timeframe. The theme invites everyone across all sectors to make an effort to support the first days of children around the country to prevent stunting and obesity.

Aside from promoting health and working with communities all year long, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) and a few important stakeholders is glad to update everyone about a program that goes above and beyond in delivering on this nutrition month’s theme.

Roots to Shoots (RTS) is a 3-year program that aims to improve the nutrition and food security status of undernourished communities in the Philippines. The program is a collaboration between Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Manila Water Foundation, and World Vision Philippines.

Dale Egwaras, RTS’s project manager, stresses on the importance of collaboration for this project: “As an advocate of Zero Hunger, we should remember that solving a global health problem such as hunger and malnutrition, can only be resolved by working together and that we should imbibe in ourselves that we are all stewards of each other.”

Roots to Shoots combines various interventions for a holistic approach to fight the causes of malnutrition and poor health on the first 1,000 days of life. There are three components to RTS: Mother and Child Care, Food Security and Livelihood (FSL), and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

The Mother and Child Care component is led by World Vision Philippines. This integral part of the program aims to rehabilitate underweight children and empower families and communities.

Mother and Child Care uses the Positive Deviance/Hearth (PDH) approach to help households use local resources in rehabilitating malnourished children, sustaining their health, and preventing future malnutrition despite limited resources. This component also entails the parenting program, which educates households on the first 1,000 days of a child, as well as knowledge, skills, and resilience-promoting techniques to improve parenting practices at home.

The Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) component led by Manila Water Foundation enables these communities to have access to water by assisting local water utilities in improving their system and operations. WASH also provides handwashing stations to key strategic areas in the communities, conducts hygiene education sessions,  and promotes good hygiene practices and its importance, especially in this time of pandemic.

Lastly, the Food Security and Livelihood component, which is led by Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., utilizes sustainable agricultural practices to address two aspects of food security: food availability and food access. FSL implements a capacity building program to train farmers and community members on improved farming technologies, and provides training, finance, and infrastructure support to community-based enterprises.

Grace Legadia is one of the moms in the LSF program. Asked on how the program helps her and her family, she says “Malaki ang naitulong ng programa sa amin kasi hindi na kami bumibili ng gulay, kaya mas nakatipid kami. Kapag marami ang gulay na inani namin, ibinebenta pa namin para may karagdagang kita pa kami.” 

Grace is a single mom with a two year old child. She uses the LSF program to not only get livelihood support but also to harvest her kid’s favorite vegetables. “Ang paboritong gulay ng aking anak ay talong at mani, kaya hindi iyon nawawala sa aking taniman.”

Just in its first year, Roots to Shoots was able to support many lives and achieve good numbers as a jump off point for its 3-year plan.

On Mother and Child Care:

  • 37 nutrition hubs established in the 13 barangays of Bombon and Pasacao.
  • 312 mothers of malnourished children educated on preparing nutritious and affordable meals.
  • 336 underweight/stunted children enrolled in the nutrition hubs.

On Food Security and Livelihood:

  • 342 mothers trained on home gardening.
  • 260 farmers trained on farming practices.

On Water Sanitation and Hygiene:

  • 17 handwashing stations established in barangay health centers.
  • 7 community facilities now with improved water access.
  • 648 mother and children encouraged to practice proper handwashing.
  • 976 households improved water access.

Just like a child that’s well taken care of, Roots to Shoots will continue to grow strong and sustainably to help more people along the way. Programs like RTS ensure that Filipinos can look to a future where children can get the health and nutrition they need to have a long, healthy life. Nutrition Month ends on July but its goals and message lives on.

Join us as we wrap up nutrition month with ‘Hapag ng Kalusugan, Kalinisan, at Kalikasan: A Roots to Shoots Nutrition Month Celebration’ on July 30, 2021 at 2:00PM, where you can learn more about the project, its accomplishments, the people behind its success, and await many surprises. Follow us on Facebook for updates and more information about the event.