The US Agency for International Development Nutrition was responsible for the development of the Nutribun formula. It just so happened that Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was the president at the time when it was distributed to Filipino students.
Photos from the Facebook pages of Sen. Imee Marcos and Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez
CLAIM: The Nutribun program was a brainchild of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
In a Facebook live video on Feb. 3, 2022, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez justified his support for the candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the only son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator who was president of the country from Dec. 30, 1965 to Feb. 25, 1986, and narrated his experiences during the presidency of Marcos.
“The time na presidente pa si President Marcos, I’ve experienced ‘yung mga ginawa nila,” Gomez said. “Siguro some experienced na mga hindi maganda and so up to now, they’re against him.”
In narrating his experiences during the Marcos era, Gomez falsely claimed that the late dictator was behind the Nutribun program.
“As a young kid, I experienced na gumanda yung Roxas Boulevard, nagkaroon ng LRT (Light Rail Transit), napatayo ‘yung Philippine International Convention Center, ‘yung [Manila] Film Center. Na-experience ko ‘yung Nutribun program ni presidente,” he said.
The Nutribun program was launched in the Philippines at the height of its malnutrition problem in the 1970s. The distribution of Nutribuns in the country ran from 1971 to 1997.
It was not Marcos nor his government who was behind the Nutribun project. It was the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Nutrition and scientists from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University that were responsible for the development of the Nutribun formula.
In a report released in 1979, the USAID listed the groups behind the “cooperative effort which developed the Nutribun,” which are as follows:
- USAID Nutrition for development of the formula to justify a claim for nutritious snack food;
- Food for Peace and CARE for donated food commodities (wheat flour and non-fat dry milk powder);
- Wheat Associates for assisting by instructing local bakeries on the appropriate bakery technology;
- Local commercial bakeries for formulating and blending local and donated ingredients, and baked and delivered Nutribuns to schools;
- Schools for reimbursing bakeries for the cost of local ingredients and their services; and
- Pupils who were asked (but not forced as a condition of participation) to share these costs.
The Marcoses grabbed credit for the Nutribun project in multiple instances.
Former USAID communications media advisor Nancy Dammann in her 2003 memoir, “My 17 years with USAID,” said then first lady Imelda Marcos had labeled Nutribun packages meant for Central Luzon flood victims with “Courtesy of Imelda Marcos – Tulungan Project” slogans.
Marcos children Ferdinand Jr. and Imee also had a hand in spreading disinformation about the Nutribun project.
The two posted videos celebrating the late dictator’s 101st birthday in 2018, where the narrator listed projects of the Marcos government and said: “Nakilala ang Nutribun bilang isang masustansya at kumpletong pagkain para sa mga batang mag-aaral. Ang bawat isang Nutribun ay katumbas ng ⅓ ng recommended dieteary allowance ng mga bata para sa enerhiya at protina, kung kaya naman matagumpay na sinugpo ang problema ng malnutrisyon sa mga paaralan.”
While the severe malnutrition in the country decreased in the years following the launch of the Nutribun project, some have doubted that the Nutribuns had played a significant role in quashing hunger and malnutrition.
“There is little evidence…that present school feeding programs have significantly enhanced the physiological capacity of students,” Barry Popkin and Marisol Lim-Ybanez wrote in the journal article, “Nutrition and school achievement,” published in the Social Science and Medicine journal in 1982.
The claim that Nutribun was a Marcos project was earlier fact-checked by Rappler here. John Ezekiel J. Hirro
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