The government is gearing up for the house-to-house distribution of nutritious meals for undernourished school children at the start of classes next month.
According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the government’s supplemental feeding programs for school children may include the delivery of food products like iron-fortified rice, enhanced nutribun, as well as instant laing and pinakbet to improve their health and prevent child stunting.
These fortified and enriched food products have been developed by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), Nograles said.
“We have supplemental feeding program that are entrenched or part of the DepEd (Department of Education) budget and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) budget for school-based feeding programs for school children and the DSWD day care children. The challenge is we don’t have face to face classes. It won’t be like before wherein children came to school, we cooked them lunch for free, we let them eat and then—a perfect system, right?” he said during a recent online media forum.
“Without face to face classes, we must now go house to house and deliver food items to the homes of undernourished children that have been identified,” he added.
He said giving the undernourished students the “usual rice, canned goods and noodles” was not enough to meet their nutritional needs.
“So here comes the DOST-FNRI nutritious food products like iron-fortified rice, like instant laing or instant pochero or instant pinakbet made up of vegetables like noodles made up from squash and enriched with malunggay and the latest product of DOST-FNRI which is the enhanced nutribun, like the nutribun of the 1970s,” he said.
The government previously delivered hot meals in public day care centers and elementary schools to promote health and nutrition of undernourished school children. The delivery mode of the feeding programs has been modified after the government promoted the shift to alternative learning methods in lieu of face-to-face classes during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Nograles, delivering the food to the homes of the schoolchildren will help support the nutritional requirements of the kids.
“Even if there are no hot meals being cooked in the schools and given to the children, we have a bit of better assurance that the food products since they are high in nutrition if taken by these children during the implementation of this feeding program, we are assured that they will gain their required nutritional intake to lift them out to the under nutrition status,” he said.
Under the Republic Act No. 11037, the government is mandated to implement a national feeding program for undernourished children in public day care, kindergarten and elementary schools to combat hunger and undernutrition.
Among the feeding projects are the Supplemental Feeding Program for Day Care implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the School-Based feeding program of the Department of Education, and the Milk Feeding Program in coordination with the Department of Agriculture.
Under the SFP, the DSWD provides one fortified meal to undernourished children with ages three to five in day center centers for not less than 120 days in a year.
The DepEd’s school-based feeding program, on the other hand, targets undernourished public school children from kindergarten to grade six. It includes the provision of at least one fortified meal to undernourished students for 120 days.
Fresh milk and milk-based food products are also incorporated in the fortified meals and cycle menu to enhance nutritional content while boosting the livelihood of local dairy farmers.
Nearly two million malnourished Filipino children have benefited from government-sponsored school feeding programs, Nograles said.