How to involve parents in school feeding programs
MANILA, Philippines – The children played around as their parents cooked lunch out in the open air.
It was just like any other day in Franville Daycare Center, a small preschool on the side of a road right in the heart of Caloocan City.
It has been conducting its school feeding program for almost 3 years now. Five days a week, it holds 3 sessions of classes and feeding programs for over 137 preschoolers aged 3-5. (WATCH: Why early childhood nutrition is crucial)
During the summer, its doors are still open almost weekly. It also welcomes some first-graders who graduated from the program.
Each session – lessons and educational activities – lasts for 3 hours, including meal time. In a day, it caters to 3 batches of preschoolers.
Franville is one of the 214 daycare centers in Caloocan City participating in the nationwide supplementary feeding program (SFP) implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
SFP lasts for 120 days each school year; children are assessed before, during, and after the program – their nutritional status and weight are monitored. (READ: Learning on an empty stomach)
At the beginning of the SY 2013-2014, the preschool had 10 undernourished children – their weight was too low and was only equivalent to that of a 10-month old baby. At the end of the program, Franville reported all the children gained normal weight. (READ: Malnutrition 101)
The city covered over 17,000 SFP beneficiaries last school year, according to Joy Daradal of DSWD-NCR. DSWD reported it covered around 1.7 million preschoolers nationwide as of March 2014 with a budget of P2.5 billion. (READ: How to address PH child malnutrition?)
Though public preschools like Franville have limited budget and staff – at least one daycare worker and a few aids – its operations are sustained by parent volunteers. (READ: How hunger affects child behavior)
It does not charge parents fees since DSWD funds the program and the barangay (village) shoulders the preschool’s water and electricity bills.
“Support from the local government unit (LGU) is crucial for the program to succeed,” Marilyn Colitoy, Caloocan SFP head, said.
To entice children to eat vegetables, daycare workers prepare “creative” meals – they cut vegetables into different shapes and sizes. A child enjoyed eating sayote and thought he was eating “green noodles.” (READ: Schools vs Hunger)
The preschool purchases ingredients, but its utensils are mostly contributed by parents. The parents also donate P2 each to pay for other needs like gas and soap.
At the beginning of each year, guardians are asked to sign a waiver requiring “parent involvement.” They are given shifts and assignments – cleaning and repairing classrooms, school grounds, and toilets; meal preparation; and information dissemination.
Colitoy shared that Franville rarely encounters uncooperative parents. “If parents are unavailable, they send proxies.” (WATCH: Community-based kitchens)
These days, the parents have been cooking outdoors since the preschool’s kitchen is undergoing repair – funded by the LGU and parents. The area is often flooded during the rainy season. (READ: Malnutrition as a result of bad governance)
The preschool provides Parent Effectiveness Sessions (PES) focusing on 4 areas:
- Children’s rights
- Proper childcare, nutrition, and positive discipline practices
- Family and child development
- Disaster preparedness
In one activity, parents were blindfolded and were asked to shout what they say when they scold their children. Marigel Mariano, a 22-year-old single mother, teared up during the activity. (READ: Young, pregnant, poor in the PH)
Many parents realized that they curse when they are angry; some also admitted they physically hurt their children.
“Nakonsensya ako. Hindi dapat ganun tratuhin ang bata,” Marigel whispered. (I felt guilty. That’s not how to treat a child.)
PES teaches guardians how to properly discipline children.
“5 years pa lang akong ina, dami kong natutunang dapat at hindi dapat gawin.” (I’ve only been a mom for 5 years, I learned a lot on what and what not to do.)
Although busy working as a kasambahay (house help), Marigel makes time to drop by the preschool to help make lunch.
PES provides easy-to-understand sanitation and nutrition lessons.
“Halimbawa, i-explain namin ang ‘fiber’ bilang taga-walis ng dumi sa katawan,” Erlyn Alcantara, daycare worker and president of Caloocan city daycare worker’s federation, said. (For example, we explain ‘fiber’ as the sweeper of body waste.) (INFOGRAPHIC: ABCs of nutrition)
“We also teach parents to set a good example; they should eat vegetables, too, and avoid junk food,” Alcantara said.
“Parents should also be disciplined, not just the child,” she added. (READ: Take it with a grain of 'iodized' salt)
Aujimar Pao, the only adult male guardian present that day, said he does not know how to cook, but he helps out by pumping water, playing with the kids, washing dishes, and carrying gas tanks.
“’Yung ibang lalaki nahihiya pumunta dito kasi nakakabawas daw sa pagkalalaki. ‘Wag kayo mahiya, para ito sa mga bata,” Pao, whose 5-year-old niece is enrolled in Franville, said. (Other men are embarrassed to come here, says it diminishes their manhood. Don’t be ashamed, this is for the kids.)
The daycare workers conduct home visits to monitor the progress of beneficiaries after the program. They also visit those who skip classes.
“The usual reason why kids dropout is family problems or money – parents lose jobs and have to move back to the province,” Alcantara explained.
Daycare centers across Caloocan also conduct monthly meet-ups where daycare workers and parents discuss problems and exchange possible solutions.
Future of daycare
Alcantara admits that the daily P13/child budget is not enough.
“Kukulangin talaga, sana at least P20/child man lang,” she said. (It’s really not enough. It should be at least P20/child.)
"Most of these kids come from low-income families, we want to give them the best that we can," according to Alcantara.
The small team behind Franville, however, reminded parents that school feeding programs are only supplementary – the primary responsibility to keep children healthy is still with the family. (READ: Lessons from Thai school nutrition programs)
“Some kids are healthy during the SFP, but once it’s over, they return to being underweight because they don’t eat right at home,” Alcantara said.
Alcantara added that some of the healthy preschoolers, unfortunately, are exposed to unhealthy meals once they enter grade school. “Some schools serve soft drinks and junk food, although the Department of Education implements canteen policies.” (READ: PH education lagging behind ASEAN neighbors?)
Lunch was almost over. The big pot of rice was nearly empty, the vegetables were gone, and children were licking their plates clean. Laughter was everywhere. – Rappler.com
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Franville Daycare Center is located at Yakal St., Franville-IV, Barangay 177, Camarin, Caloocan City.