News Release

Toledo District Kickstarts Nutrition Program with Malnutrition Screening

Sister Jean B. Bingham of the Relief Society General Presidency observes screening

Good nutrition plays an essential role in a child’s early formative years. It aids in a child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. In contrast, poor nutrition delays development. When left untreated, it can lead to long-term or permanent negative effects.

To help curb malnutrition, the Toledo Philippines District (small diocese) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kickstarted their nutrition program and held the first malnutrition screening on Saturday, 8 February at the Toledo Chapel. Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, attended the screening together with her husband Brother Bruce Bingham.

 

The general officer of the Church, who has a special interest in the child nutrition, was in the country to learn more about the nutrition initiative in order to replicate it in other Church areas across the globe that need it.

The new Church project, which is local- and area-led, will help undernourished children age zero to 60 months and their families using resources that are readily available, such member volunteers. The project will benefit families from the different towns and barangays under Toledo District, including Aloguinsan, Balamban, Lamac, Tutay, Lutopan and Toledo City.

Based from the initial screening results, 52.71% or 68 children out of the 129 children screened were found to be severely malnourished. Only one child was found to be within normal range.

As the project is fairly new in the area, Jairus Perez, Area Humanitarian Manager, explained that nature of the nutrition initiative. “What we are trying to do here is not a feeding program,” he said. “If there is a problem, we let the individual councils meet together and decide what to do.”

True enough, the leaders counseled together to discuss the next steps and solutions after the initial screening showed an alarming percentage of malnutrition in the area.

With the consent from the parents, the children will be enrolled in the nutrition program. The program will include regular visits from their assigned volunteer nutrition specialists to track the children’s food intake as well as their progress in their weight and height. As the program is inclusive, the rest of the family members will receive regular trainings on nutrition, food preparation, sanitation and many others.

United Effort to Curb Malnutrition

Local Church leaders, including branch (small congregation) presidents, Relief Society and the Primary leaders from the eight different branches of Toledo Philippines District played active roles all throughout the screening.

             

Noriene Mhar, the District Primary President, shared that each Relief Society branch president visited families as part of their ministering efforts. “During these visits, they get to see the family’s home conditions and assess the probable causes for malnutrition,” she explained. “Branch missionaries and full-time missionaries also took part by visiting non-member friends and part member families and invited them to join the screening.”

According to Sister Bingham, it was a heart-warming and eye-opening experience for her to observe how the member volunteers of Toledo District worked together to take the initial step to address malnutrition in their area.

About 50 to 60 member volunteers were present. In her observation, Sister Bingham shared, “I am amazed at how organized the setup is, how the members helped and worked together to do this program.”

          

In their meeting, President Lauro Arquero Bautista of the Toledo Philippines District quoted Elder Uchtdorf’s message “to roll up their sleeves and go to work”. Meanwhile, Sister Bingham shared a scripture verse from Mosiah 4: 27 that “all things must be done in wisdom and order and to be diligent that they may win the prize” to further strengthen the district’s effort to improve nutrition.

Toledo Philippines District is part of the 23 stakes and districts that is participating in the nutrition project this year. In 2019, seven stakes piloted the project. The Catarman Stake, wherein Sister Bingham visited recently, was able implement it successfully.

Malnutrition among children is one of the prime concerns all over the world with Philippines being one with the highest rate. In Central Visayas alone, the Province of Cebu, where Toledo is situated, has a 7.16% rating in terms of poor nutrition in preschool children age zero to 71 months, according to the National Nutrition Council. The Church’s nutrition program will aid local government units and non-government organizations in the fight against malnutrition.

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