Sunday, November 2, 2014
MANILA-Amid rising number of malnourished children in the country, Senator Sonny Angara has renewed his call for the establishment of a school feeding and child nutrition program in all public schools in the Philippines.
"The most effective means to combat child hunger and malnutrition is through the public school network where we could target children who belong to poorer families," said Angara, a known advocate of educational reforms.
The senator lamented that current school feeding programs administered by the Department of Education (DepEd) are limited as these programs rely heavily on allocations from government officials and agencies or donations from private individuals and corporations.
According to the 2013 National Nutrition Survey, 20 percent of Filipino children aged 0 to 5 are underweight while 30 percent are stunted or too short for their age.
Moreover, the Philippines ranked 9th in the world with the most number of stunted children, based on the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) 2013 study.
"Poor nutrition is among the top reasons for school dropouts. Since undernourished children are more susceptible to infection and disease, they absent themselves from school more frequently resulting to poor performance and poor learning outcomes," the senator said.
Since his days in Congress, Angara has been filing the Child Nutrition Act which seeks to mandate a budgetary allocation to institutionalize a school feeding and child nutrition program throughout the public elementary school network in the country.
Under Senate Bill No. 202, the National Nutrition Council (NNC), Department of Health (DOH), and DepEd shall initiate, maintain and expand a system of distribution of milk, fortified snack foods and vitamin supplements to public elementary school entrants.
Beneficiary students will be required to eat and take their free snacks and vitamin supplements inside the classroom during recess time, five times a week.
The bill intends to make young students aware of the importance of good nutrition by providing relevant and user-friendly nutrition information and education materials.
SB 202 provides for social mobilization and training among DepEd personnel, parents and children in order to orient them on the program's objectives and to generate support for the program.
"There should also be a simultaneous health and dental examination and deworming of the participating children during the meeting-orientation of parents and teachers to monitor the children's health condition. Students found with defects or ailments must immediately be given proper treatment or referred to hospitals," Angara said.
An initial sum of P100 million from the national budget would be appropriated for the first year of implementation of the program while a counterpart fund of at least 20 percent of the cost incurred for feeding programs will be provided by local government units where the school districts are located.
In case of shortage of funds, the implementation of the school feeding program shall first be undertaken in provinces where malnutrition rates are most severe, as may be determined by the NNC.
Private companies that would donate food, milk, juices vitamin supplements or other similar products are entitled to incentives under the proposed measure.