Soybean gives hope to Parents of Children with Autism

Soybean is considered one of the most valued crops in the world. Apart from its contribution to the agricultural sector as livestock feed, soybean is now gaining popularity as a healthful food. With its proven medicinal properties and benefits, a number of people and groups have started venturing into soybean processing not only for profit but also to combat malnutrition and alleviate some medical conditions that are thought to be related to proper food consumption.


          Autism Recovery Network of the Philippines (ARNP) was founded in 2011 in the aim to increase awareness on Autism as they provide support to families affected by autism. With autism widely considered before as a condition that affects behavior, ARNP, along with other organizations that look into autism, sees autism as a “whole system disorder.” This perspective led to various hypothesis and studies that have linked physical symptoms of autism such as gastrointestinal dysfunction to the neurobehavioral features observed in children with autism. As such, parents of children with autism are now looking into improved food choices and specialized diet as means to help their sons and daughters become healthier and less symptomatic. ARNP, in its aim to come up with diet recommendations for children with special needs, implemented the project “Technology Piloting of Soybean Production and Utilization in Camarines Norte.”


          Focused at promoting the production, utilization, and processing of soybean to help prevent malnutrition to children, especially to those with autism, ARNP, through its president, Marilou Lagdameo, implemented a series of activities toward showcasing soybean as an inexpensive and organic protein source when consumed as food and as a means of livelihood and income to Camarines Norte farmers and processors through soybean production and processing.


          With the soybean seed samples distributed during the seminar conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) on October 2015, ARNP was able to establish demonstration farms in Barangays Napilihan, Calangcawan Sur, and Sto. Domingo. At least 25 farmers from each of these barangays were trained on soybean production, processing, and organic spray application. One of them is Lola Alma Odi, a 79-year-old farmer who now plants soybean along with other high-value vegetables. Despite her age, Lola Alma sees the value of planting soybean. From the half kilo of soybean seeds given to her during the seminar, Lola Alma sold some of her harvests to ARNP which were processed into various soybean-based food products. Through the help of Zoe Almadrones of the Municipal Agricultural Office of Vinzons, Camarines Norte, Lola Alma learned how to produce soybean embutido, which she gladly shared with her children and grandchildren.


          Apart from the soybean embutido, ARNP, through the assistance of Eleonor Escurel, Nelia Desalesa, Janeth Alzate, and Juvy Estareja of DA-Regional Field Office V and Almadores, also introduced to their farmer beneficiaries and partners other soybean products. These include soy milk, soybean muffins, soy balls, soy chips, soy polvoron, soy flan, and soy burger patties, which ARNP already introduced and promoted to the public through various local trade fairs and activities.


          With these products currently produced manually, by Glenda Galero, soybean processor and president of Soybean Producers and Processors Association of Vinzons, is hopeful that once their soybean processing center becomes fully operational, not only they will be able to respond to the demand to produce more soybean products, they can also encourage more people to venture into soybean production and processing. She said, “Mano-mano lang ang gawa namin, minsan nasusunog pa, hindi namin nape-perfect, kasi wala pa nga kaming processing center…kaya excited kami ba matapos na ‘to [processing center]. Mabenta kasi ang soybean, marami kaming natatanggap na orders. Masarap daw kasi. Kasi marami sa kanila [customers] ang first-time lang makatikim ng produkto na may soybean kaya naiintriga talaga sila. Mas marami yung kumukuha kasi nga gawa ng health benefits ng soybean tapos matagal pa daw makagutom.”


          Currently on its 80% completion, construction and acquisition of the ARNP processing center is part of the project’s goal of promoting soybean utilization and processing. Located at Barangay Sto. Domingo, the processing center is a container van that holds primary and secondary soybean processing equipment.


          With children with autism as its main target market, project has partnered with Vinzons SPED Resource Center and Mabini SPED Laboratory in distributing their produced soybean milk and muffin to children with special needs. Lagdameo, who personally delivers these products to these centers, attests on their products’ impact to the children with autism. She explains, “Malaki talaga ang pagbabago nung mga bata. In our products, we do not use preservatives as children with autism are known for their gut condition that causes behavioral problem. We believe that autism is a health problem that is why we have these interventions, such as this SPED center and proper diet through the consumption of soya.”


          Together with the parents of children with autism, ARNP is hopeful that they will make a difference and impact not only in the lives and future of their children by introducing to their diet soybean products, but also to the people of Camarines Norte who now know of the benefits of producing and processing soybean.


          Mario Sta Rosa, father of one of the students in Mabini SPED Laboratory, said, “Sana talaga magtuloy tuloy ‘to kasi gusto ko talagang makita yung pagbabago ng anak ko sa tulong ng soya. Maganda sana kasi makakagaan talaga sa amin. Hindi madali mag-alaga ng may autism, nakakapagod. Kaya mabuti nalang may mga ganitong program sila Ma’am Malou [Lagdameo]. At the end, gusto ko makapag-aral ang anak ko. Gusto ko magkaroon sya ng magandang kinabukasan.” ###(Mara Shyn Valdeabella)

For more information:

Marilou I. Lagdameo


Autism Recovery Network of the Philippines

Barangay 3, Taft Iraya St., Daet, Camarines Norte

0946 047 6746

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