A new UNICEF report entitled “Children’s Lived Experience of the Food Environment” finds that children and youth in the Philippines are influenced by similar environmental factors that affect their food choices and eating habits.
By examining children’s lived experiences, UNICEF was able to identify policies that the Philippine government and other stakeholders need to strengthen to provide children with better access to healthier diets and living conditions. These improvements are crucial to supporting the growth and development of children in the country.
The report described a day in the lives of children from different parts of the Philippines and of different ages.
He said these children’s “lived experiences” highlight the realities of children’s lives and clearly indicate how policies can improve their environments and diets.
Children’s diets in the Philippines are changing, according to the study, with children eating less fruit and vegetables and more sugar, salty and fatty foods.
Three-quarters or 74% of 13- to 15-year-olds eat fewer than three servings of vegetables a day, while more than a third (38%) drink at least one soda a day.
Among children aged five to 10 years, overweight rates increased significantly from 10.4% in 2019 to 14% last year, while among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years, it increased from 10.7% in 2019 to 13% last year.
The report said that a poor diet contributes to a triple burden of malnutrition with malnutrition, in the form of stunted growth and micronutrient deficiencies, coexisting with increasing rates of overweight.
This triple burden of malnutrition is driven by systems that fail to provide children with adequate food, space to play and exercise, access to clean water and hygienic environments, and financial security.
“Malnutrition is a serious violation of a child’s right to adequate nutrition and can have serious long-term consequences for a child’s health, development and well-being. Children need a varied and nutritious diet for their growth and development, and caregivers need support to provide their children with a healthy diet,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.
Supported by the Center for Food Policy at the City University of London, the study aimed to understand children’s experiences in relation to the food environment and provide qualitative evidence for policy options to prevent overweight and obesity among children.
It complements a comprehensive landscape analysis that reviewed the extent and risk factors for overweight and obese children, identified gaps in governance, policies and programs, and recommended actions for policymakers.
Evidence from landscape analysis, a related marketing study, and this study provide a solid rationale for strengthening policy and legislation.
The study detailed recommendations on food, social protection, built infrastructure, education and communication systems, such as introducing mandatory legislation to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children, promoting the availability of locally produced food at affordable prices, developing safe areas where children can play and engage in sports activities and apply policies and standards to promote healthy school feeding environments.
The climate crisis, economic shocks and rising prices are hitting vulnerable households particularly hard, according to the study.