Lawmaker proposes meatless Monday in schools

IN celebration of the Nutrition Month in the country this July, a lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to institutionalize Meatless Monday both in private and public schools in a bid to encourage consumptionof vegetables, particularly indigenous varieties, attributed to healthy living among elementary and high school students.

Rep. Teddy Casiño (Party-list, Bayan Muna) filed House Bill 6311,which aims to aid the campaign to lessen greenhouse gas emissionscontributing to climate change and environmental degradation as wellas promote a healthy lifestyle among Filipinos.

Casiño said the Luntiang Lunes Motivational Campaign was developed asa nutrition and environmental drive to address high meat consumption world-wide in 2003.  This was launched jointly by Johns Hopkins and Columbia University Schools of Public Health.

Those campaigning for “Luntiang Lunes” estimated that if in 2011, each of the 25.7 million students practiced Meatless Mondays in schools, injust one year this would have the same beneficial effect on CO2-emission as taking 94,392 cars off the road or having 12.35 million trees planted and grown for 10 years based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Casiño said studies have shown that Filipinos are meat-eaters and have one of the lowest per capita intakes of vegetables in the world withonly 39 kg.

Likewise, he added, a 2008 study made by the Departmentof Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute(DOST-FNRI) indicated that the Philippines has a severe double disease burden, childhood malnutrition and adult obesity.

“A quarter of adult Filipinos are already hypertensive and 7 millionare diagnosed with diabetes, making the Philippines one of the world’stop ten epicenters of the disease.  Each year, 200,000 Filipinos die of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with heart disease as the leading cause of death. Long-term health care costs for NCDs are staggering. This also undermines the country’s economic development,” Casiño said.

He said targeting children and adolescents for dietary change will have a life-long impact on dietary habits and cardiovascular health than when interventions are done on adults.

“This underscores the fact that dietary patterns are established andconsolidated in childhood and adolescence,” Casiño said.

Casiño pointed out that a knowledge or information campaign alone isinsufficient to improve vegetable intake among young people.
He stressed that a required, integrated, institutionalized and sustainable dietary strategy like Meatless Monday in schools would  present as a productive and effective instrument.

Casiño cited “Luntiang Lunes” founder and neuroscientist Dr. Custer C.Deocaris who said that dietary behavior is the most difficult habit tochange.

He said most health promotion campaigns fail due to the lackof compliance component for setting realistic goals andreinforcements.  Dr. Deocaris added that Monday among the days of the week, may possess the greatest potential to serve as a tool to bolsterlong-term campaigns.

Dr. Deocaris said Monday is a useful prompt or reminder to encourage subjects to get back on track.  It is also planning and anticipation day where the power of anticipating and planning for a demanding environment occurs on a Monday as manifested by higher stress level as compared to the rest of the days in a week and Monday stress may helpfacilitate habit formation because the level of and adrenal- corticalactivity on Mondays may have particular utility in crystallizing dietary habits as induction of stress which helps redirect hippocampal-dependent (cognitive/goal-directed) behavior to astriatum-dependent (habit-memory) system.

Under the measure to be known as the “Luntiang Lunes Act of 2012,”the Department of Education (DepEd) is directed to order public andprivate elementary and high schools to only serve plant-based meals intheir cafeterias every Monday while implementing and educational campaign on the beneficial role of such diet on health and the environment.

However, no student shall be forced to buy food from the cafeteria and they have the right to bring packed lunch, regardless of  whether it is plant or meat-based food.

DepEd in coordination with the Departments of Health (DOH), Agriculture (DA) and DOST-FNRI, together with non-government organization such as Luntiang Lunes Inc. and the Nutritionist-Dietitian’s Association of the Philippines, shall form an inter-agency committee that will oversee proper implementation of the Luntiang Lunes in schools.

The inter-agency committee shall develop and design plant-based meals with emphasis on indigenous vegetables available in the region that will meet the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) of Filipino children and adolescents; monitor health and dietary practices of students and households and support and develop advocacy  and educational programs and materials.

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