Nutrition council sounds alarm over skyrocketing healthy diet costs

The National Nutrition Council estimates that a family of five requires a daily budget of at least P1,212 to ensure their meals are nutritious

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The National Nutrition Council (NNC) has raised the alarm on the grim situation affecting many Filipino families due to the skyrocketing costs of maintaining good nutrition in the country.

The costs of maintaining healthy diets have been steadily rising, leaving many struggling to afford nutritious meals in the last six years.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the NNC said a daily healthy diet cost every Filipino about P242.53 in 2021. To meet their basic food and non-food needs, a family of five must have a monthly income of at least P12,082, PSA data showed.

In a statement on Tuesday, July 4, the NNC estimated that a family of five required a daily budget of at least P1,212,650 to ensure their meals were nutritious. The NNC, however, said the costs may even be higher for households with infants, adolescents, and pregnant women who had more energy and nutrient requirements.

The NNC provided data that showed the costs of healthy diets continuously climbed over the years, from P226.60 in 2017, P236.04 in 2018, P238.9 in 2019, to P242.53 in 2020.

Comparatively, the global average daily cost of a healthy diet stands at US$3.54 per person.

The NNC warned that factors such as increasing food prices, conflicts, and climate change were expected to further drive up the costs of maintaining healthy diets in the coming years.

“Food security is an important aspect of a healthy diet as it indicates people’s ability to access sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and satisfy their food preferences. When households become food insecure, the risk (of) malnutrition becomes higher,” the NNC said.

Surveys conducted by various organizations have confirmed that a substantial segment of the Filipino population faces significant challenges in achieving and maintaining healthy diets. For instance, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that in 2020, about 75.2 million Filipinos could not afford a nutritious diet.

The 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS), which was conducted by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), further showed the extent of food insecurity among Filipino households.

The survey, which covered 27 provinces and 10 highly urbanized cities, showed that three out of 10 households experienced moderate to severe food insecurity. Disturbingly, 68.5% of households expressed concerns about the adequacy of their food supply, while 35.4% reported difficulties in accessing healthy and nutritious food.

The ENNS also showed that 43.8% of respondents admitted to consuming only a limited variety of food, while 20.7% resorted to skipping meals altogether. Moreover, 32.6% thought that they were consuming less food than they should.

It showed that 25% of households experienced running out of food, with 10.9% enduring hunger without any sustenance. About 2% of the respondents said they experienced spending an entire day without eating.

“Nutrition and food security issues in the country are very alarming and demand immediate intervention from all sectors,” NNC executive director Azucena Dayanghirang said.

Dayanghirang said the NNC was working to address the nutrition challenges in the country using evidence-based interventions in the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition (PPAN) 2023-2028.

The PPAN, the country’s blueprint for ensuring that Filipino citizens have enough food to eat and are healthy, is part of the Philippine Medium-Term Development Plan. The NNC led the development of the plan and continues to coordinate its implementation, as well as monitor and evaluate nutrition-related activities throughout the country.

The NNC is leading the nationwide celebration of the 2023 Nutrition Month this month and a campaign calling for collaboration from various stakeholders in the public and private sectors to empower Filipinos to have greater access to affordable, safe, and nutritious food. The month-long celebration was launched in Tagum City, Davao del Norte on Monday, July 3.

The council’s campaign aims to engage consumers to support improvements in levels of diet quality, involve the public in efforts to enable access to affordable and sustainable healthy diets and seek support for NNC’s efforts to improve nutrition security in the country. –

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