GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Nutrition workers in South Cotabato will add white corn to the food package for pregnant women as a strategy to further curb cases of malnutrition among children.

Ma. Ana Uy, provincial nutrition action officer, said Friday they will replace rice with ground white corn, locally known as “tinigib”, as the main ingredient of its "Buntis Alagaan, Tamang Nutrisyon Kailangan (Batak)" food package.

Uy said the move complements the rollout of the Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act (Health and Nutrition of Mothers and Their Children Act).

“We want to ensure that no newborn babies will come out with low birth weight,” she said in a briefing.

Uy said the inclusion of ground white corn aims to help meet the daily energy needs of pregnant women.

She explained that consuming ground white corn promotes regular digestive functioning and its fiber content will help pregnant women feel full without worrying about high sugar intake, unlike when eating rice.

Each cup of corn grit has about 1.5 mg. of iron or equivalent to 8 percent of a pregnant woman’s nutritional needs, she said.

Uy said iron helps cells produce energy and is also important in maintaining healthy red blood cells.

“Our focus this time is the health and nutrition of both the pregnant mothers and children,” she said.

The official said the inclusion of “tinigib” in the Batak food package was undergoing necessary laboratory studies and they were targeting to launch it by September.

The Provincial Nutrition Committee launched the Batak program last year to address cases of low birth weights among newborn babies.

The local government partnered with the Hapag-asa Integrated Nutrition Program of the Asisi Development Foundation for the provision of “manna” food packs for pregnant women.

Previous articles said Hapag-Asa seeks to improve the national status of moderate and severely malnourished children through supplemental feeding programs, health and nutrition education and value formation.

The “manna” packs consist of rice, soya, and dehydrated vegetable.

Under the program, Uy said 88 percent of the 500 pregnant women that they supported gave birth to healthy babies.

“You are what you eat. It is proven through studies that the food you eat is relatively related to your health and growth,” she said.

South Cotabato is one of 33 provinces with a noted high incidence of stunting, which is a consequence of severe and prolonged malnutrition.

In 2013, the province posted a stunting prevalence rate of 13.5 percent, which has gone down to 9.3 percent as of last year, due to various nutrition interventions. (PNA)