Cendaña: Nourish the Future Today

A RECENT episode of the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) Season 7 showed the teen housemates nibbling junk food very early in the morning. It was their first meal, if one can call it that, for that physically grueling day of boot camp training under the Philippine Army. As a sponsor, a popular snack food company had product placement in the show. A shelf full of the company's products was prominently displayed in the iconic house. To have the teen housemates eat their products on national television is a major advertising breakthrough. Good for the company but bad for the Filipino youth.

From an advertising perspective, it is very strategic to target the young audience of PBB Teen Edition as they are the primary market for junk food. According to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS 4) the "typical diet of a young Filipino includes instant noodles, chips, grilled street food and carbonated drinks. Sixty eight percent reported that they consume carbonated drinks at least once a week. Six in 10 have instant noodles and chips in their weekly fare while slightly more than half eat grilled street food at least once a week. About 15 percent eat chips practically every day (5 to 7 times a week)."

The favorites of young people revealed by YAFS 4 consist mainly of empty calories or food with very low nutritive value. These staples in young people's diet are high in sugar, salt and fat content. Frequent consumption of these items which is prevalent among young people contributes to adverse health outcomes. Even at a young age, young people are increasingly at risk of lifestyle diseases. The diet of young people has long term health impact which eventually can affect their productivity and quality of life in the future.

It is quite irresponsible for PBB to show the teen housemates having junk food for breakfast for advertising purposes because it sends a strong and wrong signal to their young audiences. First, it undermines the importance of having a full and healthy breakfast as a crucial foundation of daily nutrition. Second, it idealizes an extremely unhealthy eating habit. The teen housemates serve as de facto role models for young people. Those few minutes on primetime television reinforced negative behavior. It is also ironic that the said episode was aired a few days before World Food Day.

Health is recognized as a crucial input dimensions to youth development. Nutrition is one of the indispensable pillars of adolescent health and development. It is however one of the most neglected aspects of adolescent and youth health and wellbeing. Most nutrition programs focus on the very young--infants and young children. Not much effort and attention are given to the eating habits of the youth and specially adolescents who are at a critical stage in physical and mental development.

The youth need to be healthy and well to fully realize their aspirations. The pursuit of a progressive future begins with the nourishment of the young today.


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