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Mothers eat less to keep feeding kids as food prices rise

Many parents—usually mothers—are eating less to keep their children fed amid the rising prices of basic goods, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) found.

In Maki Pulido’s “24 Oras” report on Tuesday, one such mother is Nichelle Arig, who budgets around P100 of her husband’s salary of P380 per day for food, and often goes without to feed her children. The amount is enough for one and half kilos of rice and a few vegetables.

“Kagaya na lang po noong nakaraang araw, kaninang tanghali konti lang yung kanin namin na tira, sa mga bata na lang pinakain. Yung para sa akin, nagkape na lang ako. Syempre, nauuna yung mga bata. Syempre, iisipin mo gutom sila, kailangan sila muna yung kakain,” she said.

(It was like the other day, we only had a little rice left and it was given to the children. I only had coffee. Of course, the children must eat first. They are hungry, they need to eat first.)

Based on the FNRI's expanded nutrition survey conducted from November to December 2020, at least 62.1% of the households polled have experienced food insecurity or lack of food.

Around 21.1% of these families cut down the food intake for the adults, usually the mothers, in order for their children to have enough to eat.

The FNRI said it will release its latest survey, adding that the number of families experiencing food insecurity may have increased as prices continue to rise.

“This is intra-household, so yung paano ba naghahati-hati kumbaga yung family sa pagkain. Nakita namin doon yung intake of pregnant women and mothers in general ay hindi kino-consider, kumbaga, sa pag-a-allocate ng food,” FNRI science research specialist Charina Javier said.

(This is intra-household, so how does the family divide the food? We saw that the food intake of pregnant women and mothers in general is not considered in the allocation of food.)

“Kung [chronically] energy-deficient ka po na nanay, mas mababa din yung productivity mo po,” Javier added.

(If you are a chronic energy-deficient mother, your productivity will also be lower.)

Arig said she can only do limited household chores as she experiences lack of energy due to hunger.

“Masakit sa sikmura kapag kulang yung kain. Minsan din masakit sa ulo, walang gaanong lakas at syempre lagi kang inaantok, kasi gutom ka,” Arig said.

(My stomach hurts when I don't get enough to eat. Sometimes you also get a headache, and you don't have much energy and of course you experience drowsiness, because you are hungry.)

Adding to the problem is the lack of opportunities for women to earn a living.

The Philippine Statistics Office's May 2022 Labor Work Survey found that the labor participation of women was only 52.5% compared to 75% of men.

“Bunsod ito ng maraming kadahilanan. Kasama na dito yung naging epekto nitong pandemya sa trabaho ng mga kababaihan, na malaki rin ang kaugnayan sa kanilang kakayahan na bumili ng masustansya, sapat, at malinis na makakain,” Kristine Balmes of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said. 

(This is due to many factors, including the impact of the pandemic on women's work, which is also significantly related to their ability to buy nutritious, adequate, and clean food.)

“Sana magkaroon ng naka-separate na program for them na sila naman ang unahin kasi kung hindi rin sila healthy, hindi rin magiging healthy ang kanilang mga anak,” Balmes said.

(Hopefully, there will be a separate program that will prioritize women. If they are not healthy, their children will also not be healthy either.)

Arig said she will endure her hunger for her children.

“Mahirap din kasi pag sila yung magutuman. Hindi baling ako na lang kaysa yung mga bata,” Arig said.

(It is also difficult for me if they get hungry. Better for me to be hungry than my children.) — Richa Noriega/BM, GMA News