In a press release on Sept. 11, Sen. Imee Marcos claimed that the Nutribun project was initiated by her father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
The press release announced the senator’s plan to revive the Nutribun project from the 1970s. The inaccurate claim was also carried by Manila Bulletin’s article on the launch.
This needs context.
The senator’s press release said:
“Ito’y kasabay na rin ng pagdiriwang nitong nagdaang Linggo ng ika-105 na kaarawan ng kanyang ama na si dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Sr. na nagpasimuno sa Nutribun Feeding Program noong dekada ’70 na maraming bansot na bata ang lumusog. (The reintroduction of the Nutribun Feeding Program coincided with the 105th birth anniversary of her father, the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who started the Nutribun Feeding Program in the 70s that improved the health of stunted children.)”
Source: Senate of the Philippines official website, Imee: “Undernourished” Feeding Program must be revived, Sept. 11, 2022
On Sept. 12, the day after Marcos’ press release was disseminated, the Manila Bulletin wrote:
“Senator Imee Marcos has started the revival of the Nutribun Feeding Program of her late father, President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., with a warning that the government’s nutrition programs at present are ‘undernourished and will not withstand a looming global food crisis’.”
Source: Manila Bulletin, Imee revives Marcos Sr.’s Nutribun Feeding Program, Sept. 12, 2022
The Nutribun feeding program was developed from 1968 to 1970 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat child malnutrition in the Philippines and serve as emergency food during disasters. “USAID Nutrition was responsible for development of the formula to justify a claim for nutritious snack food,” the agency said in a report in 1979.
The Nutribun itself resembled a burger bun, only more dense. It was initially made from the USAID’s donated ingredients such as corn soy blend before the program shifted to using more locally sourced items such as coconut flour, mongo bean flour, banana flour or dried fish powder.
The same report said the Philippine government participated in the project by baking the Nutribuns using “local and donated ingredients.” Local bakeries then distributed the buns to the schools, which reimbursed their expenses. The children were asked — but not required — to pay between 5-10 centavos for the Nutribun.
However, former USAID media advisor Nancy Damman wrote in her 2003 memoir that Nutribun packs were “stamped with the slogan ‘Courtesy of Imelda Marcos –Tulungan project’.”
Previously, Imee Marcos claimed that no child went hungry during her father’s regime because of the Nutribun. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Imee Marcos falsely claims no child went hungry during her father’s rule because of Nutribun)
The Nutribun has been a recurring subject of misinformation on social media. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Nutribun NOT a Marcos project)
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Senate of the Philippines official website, Imee: “Undernourished” Feeding Program must be revived, Sept. 11, 2022
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Nutrition and Related Services Provided to the Republic of the Philippines, September 1979
Nancy Damman, My 17 Years with USAID: The Good and the Bad, 2003
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)