Despite the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Grace Poe said children should still receive free nutritious meals under government’s feeding programs given a fresh funding this year.
"As we all await the COVID-19 vaccine, let’s continue to give our children doses of healthy food as their safety net against the virus and other illnesses,” Poe said in a statement.
"Access to quality food and nutrition for everyone, especially the poor, should be part of any overarching plan to combat the pandemic,” she added.
Poe said that under the General Appropriations Act of 2021, some P6 billion has been set aside for the School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) of the Department of Education (DepEd) to give undernourished children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 at least one fortified meal in at least 120 days a year.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) for children ages two to five was allotted with P3.8 billion budget this year.
The feeding programs are part of the Republic Act No. 11037 or Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act.
Poe, one of the authors of the law, said the food rations are usually distributed to the children-beneficiaries in the schools and day care centers.
But due to the pandemic and the recent calamities, the food packs were delivered to evacuation centers or directly to the homes of the kids with the help of the local government units.
Aside from the SFP and SBFP, the third component of RA 11037 is the Milk Feeding Program, which provides fortified meals and cycle menu, including fresh milk and fresh milk-based food products. It is being implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Carabao Center, and the Cooperative Development Agency.
Poe urged the implementing agencies to ensure that the billions in budget for the feeding programs will be used to give nutritious food to stave off hunger among poor children and boost their fighting chance against diseases.
She said the departments should also strengthen their tie-up with local government units, aid agencies, civic groups and social arms of corporations to improve the implementation of the programs.
"We know that undernutrition and malnutrition in their own right are killers, even prior to the pandemic. We hope we can help deal with the scourge of all forms of hunger and malnutrition through the feeding programs,” she said.