First in Region 8: Baybay Delights’ SP Baby Food and Milk Drink

Baybay City Mayor Hon. Jose Carlos L. Cari encouraged the farmers to plant sweet potato as an alternative crop when the price of copra was very low way back 2019.  He said that a farmer will earn more from growing sweet potato compared to coconut farming or rice farming. “If a farmer has 100 square meter land planted with sweet potato, he will harvest 350 kilos of sweet potato tubers which the City of Baybay will buy at P25.00per kilo, regardless of the size of the tubers, and he will have a total sale of P8,750,” explained Mayor Cari.

Then, the Rootcrops Processing Center was established at Barangay Cogon of this city to serve as a readily available market for the produce of the sweet potato farmers in the city. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) also gave the City of Baybay an Ice Cream Maker machine thus,  sweet potato-based ice cream are now sold at the Pasalubong Center.  They also produce sweet potato chips that are displayed at the Pasalubong Center and the VIP Lounge located inside the Baybay City Gym.

But since, despite the improved nutritional status of the children in the city, it cannot be denied that there are still a number of malnourished children in the city, Mayor Cari challenged the City Nutrition Action Officer Kristine Shayne Abarquez Castos and Rootcrops Processing Center Manager Dhebie M. Relente to make a baby food and a milk drink for lactating mothers using sweet potato and carabao’s milk as the main ingredients. “Our agricultural programs must be connected to our nutrition program to encourage our farmers to produce more,” added Mayor Cari.

Both took the challenge and on July 6, 2022, they facilitated the Sensory Testing of the baby food and the milk drink, during the launching of the Nutrition Month Celebration, and got positive response from the children who were fed with the sweet potato-based baby food, and positive comments from the lactating mothers who participated the Sensory Testing activity which was held at the Baybay City Gym.

Mayor Cari was pleased with the result of the Sensory Testing, of both the baby food and the milk drink, and ordered that these products will be used in the feeding program of the City stating 2023. In an interview with Mr. Relente she revealed that they are still processing the Rootcrops Processing Center’s Permit to Operate with the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but the Baybay Delights’ Sweet Potato Baby Food and Milk Drink was launched today (January 18, 2023) at Barangay Caridad of this city. Ms. Castos revealed that Barangay Caridad was chosen as the pilot barangay for this project because they have the most number of pregnant women.

This launching was attended by City Mayor Hon. Jose Carlos L. Cari, Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Member Chair of the Committee on Health Dr. Fulton Ike Arradaza and SP Committee Chair on Agriculture Hon. Dr. Jose Bacusmo, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Leyte Provincial Director Dr. John Glenn D. Ocaña, National Nutrition Commission (NNC) VIII Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator Dr. Catalino P. Dotollo Jr., SP Members Hon. Ramon Ronald Veloso and Hon. Dominic Junie Murillo, the members of the City Nutrition Committee, and the Barangay Cardidad Council headed by Hon. Teresita C. Casoy.

During the said activity, Ms. Castos presented the Nutritional Status of the City of Baybay in the last five (5) thus the City of Baybay was awarded the 2021 Green Banner Seal of Compliance during the 2022 Regional Nutrition Awarding Ceremony dubbed as “Gawad Nutrisyon” held at the Oriental, Leyte on December 28, 2022.  But Mayor Cari said, “We can do more. The SP had provided funds to sustain this program thus and we will be expecting for results, specifically its impact to the nutritional status of the children and the nutritionally at risk pregnant women.”

During the said activity, Visayas State University’s Retired Professor Dr. Julie Diamante Tan discussed about the health benefits of rootcrops as superfood.  She said that sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, high in antioxidants that protect the body from free radical damage and chronic disease, contain fiber and antioxidants, and are rich in beta carotene and anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health. Thus, this will definitely boost the city’s nutrition program.

DOST Leyte Provincial Director Ocaña said that they are excited about this another very laudable project of the City of Baybay to eradicate malnutrition using a very cheap product (sweet potato) which is now introduced as a superfood.  Thus, he said that the DOST will provide the necessary technical assistance in the packaging and to extend the lifespan of the product so that mothers may keep them, even without refrigeration, and so that other Local Government Units (LGUs) may avail of this health service of the City of Baybay in the future.

NNC VIII Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator Dr. Dotollo, on the other hand, extend his congratulations to the Baybay City LGU for garnering the Most Innovative Award by producing “Idol Ko Si Nanay” lectures in video, which facilitated the conduct of the Mother’s Class despite the pandemic. Encouraged also by the thoughts of Mayor Cari, Dr. Dotollo revealed that the NNC, through the Regional Nutrition Council, passed resolution No. 3, Series 2022 to use sweet potato as an alternative food for rice in Region 8. (Marissa M. Cano, City Information Officer, Baybay City, Leyte)