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MANILA, Philippines – Part of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is the enhancement of the health and education status of children.
To help in achieving these MDGs, The Department of Education (DepEd) has been conducting School-Based Feeding Programs (SBFP) since 2010.
DepEd, through its regional offices, identifies students nationwide who are malnourished. SBFP beneficiaries are selected based on this database.
For school year 2012-2013, the program covered 40,361 (or a mere 7.56%) of the 534,054 identified malnourished students from kindergarten until Grade 6.
The small coverage is largely attributed to budget constraints, DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito M.C. Umali said. DepEd’s SBFP budget for food is P15 per child and P1 per child for operational expenses, multiplied by 120 feeding days. This sums up to about P1,920 per child.
Lasting for 120 days, the feeding program targets the restoration of at least 70% of beneficiaries to their normal nutritional status and the improvement of class attendance by 85-100%.
DepEd works with LGUs and private partners like Jollibee (Busog, Lusog, Talino Program) for other feeding programs outside SBFP.
School canteens are also tasked to help in the elimination of malnutrition among students.
The DepEd guidelines on canteen operations include:
- Banning junk foods detrimental to a child’s health
- Serving nutrient-rich foods (i.e., fruits, vegetables, fortified products)
- Reasonable prices
- Clean preparations and facilities
School heads and regional offices are obliged to monitor canteen and SBFP implementations.
“There’s no doubt that with this school feeding program, the performance of children improved,” Umali stressed.
He noted that class attendance increased by 85-100% during and after the feeding period, and drop-out rates among Grade 1-3 pupils decreased.
DSWD Supplementary Feeding Program
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has also been conducting a Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) for preschoolers since 2011.
The program aims to improve the nutritional status of malnourished children aged 2 to 5 years old.
A child’s nutritional status is assessed before and after the program.
SFP covered 35,688 daycares nationwide (or 1,594,843 children) in 2013-2014. SFP covered 89.7% of its target.
This DSWD program, just like the DepEd program also lasts for 120 days. Children not enrolled in daycare centers can still avail of the program by joining Supervised Neighborhood Plays.
LGUs, NGOs, and private partners (i.e., Coca-Cola, World Food Programme, Kabisig ng Kalaahi) also support DSWD’s efforts, including other feeding programs outside SFP.
DSWD Protective Services Bureau Director Dulfie Tobias-Shalim said that DSWD’s Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process allows barangays and citizens to launch their own community projects, including feeding programs.
There are instances when the program exceeds 120 days due to ample donations and volunteers.
Starting June 2014, DSWD will take charge of both SFP and DepEd’s SBFP, but both agencies will continue working together towards improving children’s health and education.
“With the help of our partners in the private sector, LGUs, and now DSWD, we believe that school feeding programs will be further improved in the succeeding years and more students will benefit. We call on parents to support the program too,” Umali said.
DSWD’s SFP budget per child is P10 for a viand and P3 for rice, multiplied by 120 days. This comes up to P1,560 per child. SFP funds are provided for in the General Appropriations Act.
Shalim said DSWD hopes to further expand the program in the future. With better budget allocations, high school students might also be covered eventually.
DepEd and DSWD monitor and evaluate children’s weight before and after the feeding programs to determine if the students have reached their ideal nutritional status.
“We cannot feed them forever,” Umali said, even if the long-term goal remains to be sustaining the children’s good nutritional status even after the feeding program has ended.
Part of the goal is to educate families about health and nutrition, so that they could sustain the progress children have made during the school feeding programs.
DepEd mandates schools to provide nutrition, proper grooming and hygiene counseling for both students and parents. It also has a deworming program, in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH).
DSWD likewise teaches parents how to prepare affordable yet nutritious meals through Parents Effectiveness Sessions.
Shalim asked the public to help end child malnutrition, “If we really help each other out, no child will go hungry. We must ensure that school feeding programs are continuous. Parents should ensure that nutritious meals are served at home. Don’t solely depend on SFP. Your children are also your responsibility.”
Across developing nations, 66 million children go to school with an empty stomach, according to WFP. (READ: Learning on an empty stomach)
Filipino children are part of that hungry group of children.
In 2015, the world is expected to accomplish the MDGs, including the improvement of education and health, and the alleviation of extreme poverty and hunger. The Philippines only has 11 months left to do all these. But these challenges do not end in 2015.
The children of today will soon grow up and could face the same battles all over again. The pressure is on us. What can we do today to end the vicious cycle of hunger and poverty in the years to come? – Rappler.com