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Helping mothers in rural communities nourish children during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Country Network

Pregnant and nursing mothers in rural Philippines are among the highly vulnerable members of society impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The result of lockdowns and other measures has threatened the livelihood and daily activities of community members.  The looming threat of food insecurity developed into a reality in the months following the lockdown.  What was important to the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) and other SUN Civil Society Alliance members was that these impacts did not compromise the critical first 1,000 days of child development.

IIRR staff together with their family prepared the “Nutrelief” for distribution to lactating mothers, pregnant women, and women with children 2 years of age and below.

With support from the #SUNPooledFund families with lactating mothers, pregnant women, and parents with children of under 2 years of age received food packages containing local root crops such as  camote, taro, legumes such as mongo, and fresh vegetables. These #nutritionsentitive food packages provided households much-needed nutritious foods while on home quarantine. IIRR through its Strengthening Capacities on Nutrition Sensitive Programming in the Philippines project funded by the SUN Movement Pooled Fund and UNOPS provided nutrition-sensitive food aid to the families of 200 marginal farming, fishing, and ambulant vendors and their families in five local districts, known as barangays, in the municipality of  Guinayangan, Quezon Province, Philippines.

The families identified for support were those that had lost their daily income from artisan jobs due to the lockdown. The food packages dubbed “Nutrelief,” included simple recipes for the vegetables provided and information on the nutritional benefits of these foods to one’s immune system.  IIRR purchased this produce directly from local farmers to support local economy development.

The “Nutrelief” package also contained assorted vegetable seeds solicited from partners.  Thanks to this cross-collaboration, family members have seeds and educational flyers to start their own kitchen garden.

Finally, “Nutrelief” included simplified COVID-19 reading material meant to educate the barangay residents and to counter inaccurate or fearful messaging about the virus present amongst the rural population. These flyers were tailored to local needs.  They were written in the local language with memorable graphics and pictures.  Together with local government officials, daycare workers, village health workers, and nutrition scholars, teams participated in the distribution of the “Nutrelief” packages with this educational material.  In conclusion, this activity represented innovative ways of harnessing the capacities of communities as equal partners – an IIRR development trademark in the rural communities with whom they work.


World Vision Development Foundation, through the support of the same Pooled Fund Project, implemented Food for Education with Agricultural Development and Sustainability Program (FORWARD) integrating nutrition education into Community Managed Savings and Credit Association meetings. There are 275 savings and credit groups in the Philippines. By working together, the Civil Society Alliance was able to reach thousands of individuals most vulnerable to food insecurity..

“This Nutrelief is a big help to us especially now that we don’t have source of income. We will also plant the vegetable seeds you gave and these will ensure our source of fresh foods in the days ahead. Thanks also for the new recipes we learned”

Reysel Carmona,
Barangay Nutrition Scholar, Dungawan Paalyunan

“Thank you very much IIRR for this relief especially the vegetables, these ease our worries as prices of food commodities now are very high and we don’t have money to buy”

Mariquita Hernández,
Barangay Nutrition Scholar, Calimpak

“IIRR’s NutRelief program provides nutritious food to our constituents specially the pregnant women.  So timely in this COVID-19 pandemic. All of our recipients are very happy. Despite the limitations of funds we have this. Hopefully we can also extend the same to other areas”

Manel Panya,
Municipal Nutrition Action Officer

In return, the municipal departments of Guinayangan – Nutrition, Agriculture, Health and Social Services Departments, the Tanglaw Silangan Parents’ Association, Inc (TSPAI), and the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction are grateful to their supporters and donors.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IIRR prepared 200 gardening and vegetable food aid packages for families with members under the First 1,000 days of life (F1K). The package includes root crops, legumes, leafy vegetables, and seeds to encourage households to eat nutritiously and plant their own vegetables while on home quarantine. The vegetable food aid was distributed with a flyer about simple home gardening techniques and nutritious recipes in April 2020. The fresh vegetables are purchased from small-holder farmers trained by IIRR on climate-smart agriculture. Thus, the aid supported two nutritionally-vulnerable groups — rural farming families and F1K households.

Adapted from:

“Helping Mothers in Rural Philippine Communities Nourish Children During Covid-19,” by International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, SUN Pooled Fund Final ReportConsolidated Annex (Annex 26, p. 337), 2020, Place of Publication: Grant report. Adapted with permission.

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