VITAMIN A deficiency is a common health problem among Filipinos as our normal diet of meat and rice lacks the said nutrient.

This is according to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Davao Region and the regional office of the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

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FNRI supervising science research specialists Joyce Tobias and Engr. Rosemarie Garcia said that in 2003, they found out that 40 percent of Filipinos have vitamin A deficiency.

To address this problem, the regional offices of DOST and FNRI launched on Friday squash bread, which is bread mixed with squash making it fortified with Vitamin A.

"We need Vitamin A every day. Sadly, the normal diets Filipinos have do not include fruits and vegetables. So we decided to incorporate vitamin A to something we normally eat, which is bread," Garcia said.

Regarding the children's feedback on squash bread, Tobias answered that they've had a project in Subic wherein they fed the children squash bread for 120 days. "It was well-accepted by the children. Aside from that, bumaba ang absences nila. Naging masigla ang mga bata," Tobias said.

They added that squash bread is not only beneficial to the consumers but to the bakeries as well. Squash, which is normally cheaper than flour, can serve as flour-substitute. "Bakeries increase their yield from 30-40 percent" Garcia said.

"Aside from that, bakeries don't need to buy additional equipment as they can use the ones they already have," Garcia said.

Tobias and Garcia said that they have been developing this bread since December 2008 and in 2009, five bakeries have already adapted the technology.

"Many businessmen agreed to commercialize the squash bread. We don't dictate the price (of the bread) but we noticed that the price our adaptors give to squash bread is just the same as the price of ordinary bread," Garcia said.

Two new bakeries adapted the technology for squash bread, namely J-Gem-R Bakery and Bread Net Bakeshop. Currently, there are two bakeshops in Tagum, 1 in Asuncion, 1 in Baganga, 2 in Carmen and 1 in Panabo that adapted the squash bread technology.

"We want to ask all interested entrepreneurs to contact the regional office of DOST. We want you to take part in helping us solve the problem of micro-nutrient deficiency," Tobias said.

"We already have the support of the local government units and entrepreneurs. What we need to do is educate the consumers. Why not buy something that will give you not just energy but also nutrients?" Garcia said.

Squash bread was launched on Friday, the second day of the Mindanao Invention Contest and Expo (Mice) 2010, at the activity area of NCCC Mall. (MAAL)