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Feeding our schoolchildren

Manila Standard

The House of Representatives deserves commendation for setting aside P15.8 billion in next year’s national budget for school and daycare feeding programs.

The stark reality today is many low-income families are unable to put enough food on the table, with children ending up malnourished and stunted in growth.

This budget, we gathered, will be divided into two: P11.7 billion will be allotted for the Department of Education’s school-based feeding program, while P4.1 billion will be set aside for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s supplementary feeding program.

The school-based feeding program aims to provide nutritionally balanced meals or food products for 220 days, plus milk for 55 days, to “severely wasted and wasted” or underweight children from Kinder to Grade 6.

This program seeks to fight child hunger that’s been on the increase as borne out by a recent Social Weather Stations survey that found 10.4 percent of Filipino families experiencing at least one involuntary hunger or being hungry and not having anything to eat.

The supplementary feeding program, on the other hand, seeks to supply fortified meals to 2 million preschoolers in public day care centers sponsored by local government units and in supervised neighborhood play groups.

These feeding programs will help alleviate child hunger, improve the nutrition of learners from food-insecure households and prevent pupils-at-risk from dropping out of school.

The feeding programs should be gradually expanded as a component part of the national government’s anti-poverty program.

Improving the nutrition of young learners will help prevent child stunting and help them grow up healthy.

This is an investment in the nation’s future that should be supported by government at both the national and local levels, preferably with the support of non-government organizations and the private sector.

The government can enlist the support of big corporations that can focus on selected schools, for instance, in depressed communities for starters.

Clearly, such an initiative cannot be undertaken by the national government by itself, considering the scope of the problem of hunger and child stunting.

While the P15.8-billion allotment next year for the school and daycare feeding programs is P5 billion or 46 percent bigger than the P10.8 billion for this year, obviously much more funding is needed to make the program achieve its goals.

But the school feeding program is already a big step in the right direction, and should be pursued with even greater vigor in the years ahead.

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