MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is earmarking a substantial amount in the proposed 2015 national budget for an extensive feeding program set to benefit 4 million undernourished children – half in public schools and the other half not yet in school.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Thursday, November 20, that the government’s total supplemental feeding budget for 2015 is P7.2 billion ($159.8 million*), after the Senate increased the Department of Education’s (DepEd) schoolfeeding budget.
Recto said there will be “a division of labor” between the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the DepEd in improving the health of millions of “wasted and severely wasted” children.
Severely wasted children are those who are very thin for their height, while wasted children are those who may not as worse off, but will be if not taken care of. (READ: Learning on an empty stomach)
The DSWD will get P3.36 billion ($74.6 million) under its proposed 2015 budget to fund a massive feeding program for two million undernourished kids between two to 5 years old, while the Department of Education will take care of schoolchildren under its supplemental feeding program.
The DSWD’s program involves serving one hot meal a day for 120 days to 2,053,383 two-to-5-year-olds in daycare centers, or those under the care of neighborhood associations or community nurseries.
Recto said while the bulk of the funds would be coursed through local governments, “implementation will be handled by a local consortium which will include the parents of beneficiaries, barangay councils, and civic groups.”
‘Extensive schoolfeeding program’
A total of P3.2 billion ($70 million) of the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act has been allotted for healthy and nutritious meals for 1,918,464 public elementary school students, 533,425 of whom are severely wasted, and 1,385,039 wasted.
The DepEd will be the lead implementing agency of the feeding program that will span 120 days, the required minimum period to achieve the program’s target.
To date, the DepEd’s budget per child’s meal is only P16 ($0.36) – nowhere near enough to purchase a decent and nutritious meal.
According to the latest National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), 8.5% of Filipino children aged 5 to 10 years old are wasted. (READ: What is the nutritional status of Filipinos?)
The Senate committee on finance amended the measure to ensure that all severely wasted and wasted students will benefit from the program, Senator Francis Escudero explained during the Senate plenary deliberations of the 2015 DepEd budget on November 19, Wednesday. It previously covered only 8% of all wasted children.
By ending hunger and malnutrition among schoolchildren, their skills are less likely to be negatively affected. It is important to address the existing micronutrients deficiency to allow the development of children’s physical and cognitive skills. (READ: #HungerProject: The key to solving hunger in our lifetime)
Senator Grace Poe, sponsor of the measure, hopes the initiative would will lead to an instutionalized program that will end hunger and malnutrition among the Philippines’ “most neglected yet most important resources.” (READ: Poe: Hunger and malnutrition hinder Filipino youth’s potential)
“I am hopeful that this initiative, carried out effectively, will pave the way for the institutionalization of a national feeding program that will allow our needy children to attain full development,” said Poe, who is pushing for an institutionalized public school feeding program.
The author of Senate Bill 79 or the Sustansiya Para Sa Batang Pilipino Act also pushes for accountability in rolling out the program to ensure that its primary goal will be met.
“I ask the DepEd to ensure that all necessary studies are undertaken to support the implementation and monitoring of the program. Napakahalaga nito upang matiyak na bituka ng mga bata – at hindi bulsa ng sinuman – ang makikinabang sa pondong ito. (It is important that we make sure that the children, not anyone else, will benefit from this budget).” – Rappler.com
*P44 = $1
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