By Ellson Quismorio
Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Michael Defensor welcomed on Sunday the P1-billion increase given to the Department of Education’s (DepEd) School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) under the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020.
“We are all for the bigger allocation so that the program can target and cover a greater number of underfed school children,” Defensor said, referring to the P5.97-billion SBFP budget for 2020.
The amount is 20 percent higher than this year’s P4.97-billion budget for the same program.
Under the SBFP, Defensor said undernourished children from kindergarten to Grade 6 are given deworming tablets and fed at least one fortified meal plus doses of micronutrients in the form of pills, capsules or syrups, for at least 120 days in a school year.
“There’s no question the program has helped to improve the nutritional and overall health condition of children, apart from encouraging more of them to stay in school,” said the lawmaker, who chairs the Committee on Public Accounts.
The SBFP targets mostly “wasted and severely wasted” school children, or those deemed too skinny for their age.
“Right now, many school children from poverty-stricken families, even here in Metro Manila, continue to suffer from short-term hunger,” Defensor pointed out.
Short-term hunger is “a condition experienced by children who do not eat breakfast and walk long distances to reach school,” he said.
The former Malacañang chief of staff also said the SBFP would help ease starvation among school children from indigent households.
In its second-quarter survey conducted in late June 2019, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) found that an estimated 2.5 million Filipino families experienced either “moderate” or “severe” involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.
“Our sense is, the DepEd is getting better in executing the SBFP, especially after the adoption of a new set of guidelines two years ago,” Defensor said.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones issued the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the SBFP for the School Years 2017-2022 on August 7, 2017.
The SBFP is one of the three national feeding programs for undernourished children institutionalized by Republic Act (RA) No. 11037, or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law in June 2018.
The two others are the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Supplemental Feeding Program for Children in Public Day Care Centers and the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Milk Feeding Program.