The United Nations (UN) in the Philippines and French government will continue to provide meals to some 160,000 children in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) despite the closure of schools for in-person classes due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
This decision emerged on Tuesday, Sept. 21, during the “Beyond the Plate: Reinventing Food Systems”, a three-day series of discussions organized by the UN Philippines. The event is being held within the framework of the Global Food Systems Summit (FSS) that is taking place in New York on Sept. 23.
During the high-level discussion, BARMM Deputy Minister Haron Meling of Basic, Higher, Technical Education bared that they were targeting to feed 160,000 learners in the current school year in the Bangsamoro, including the 63 barangays in North Cotabato.
In 2020, BARMM reported that it has spent P336 million, or P17 per child per day, on meals consisting of iron-fortified rice, fruits and vegetables with green mongo, anchovies, and dried fish.
Meling said that UN agencies have been supporting BARMM’s school feeding program.
UN-attached agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) helps to develop the rules and regulations of the national school feeding law and has carried out assessments of the program to determine gaps in implementation, while the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supports the procurement of locally produced food and the implementation of community-based feeding interventions.
France’s involvement is primarily at the multilateral level, providing financing and technical assistance to the School Meals Coalition, a global movement that aims to ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a healthy, nutritious meal by 2030.
French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz stressed that while France is providing financing, such efforts will be shared among the partners, including the UN system–one of the key partners in the coalition.
“It’s a multi-stakeholder initiative and it brings together financing members and also the expertise and competence of the different stakeholders,” Boccoz told the participants in the high-level discussion.
Both France and the UN recently expressed support to the Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) commitment to the School Meals Coalition.
School Meals Coalition will help to address the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing together governments, UN agencies, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, and academe to drive actions that can urgently re-establish, improve, and scale-up school meals programs in low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries around the world.
Amid the pandemic in school year 2020-2021, DepEd Director Lope Santos of the Bureau of Learner Support Services said that their school-based feeding program fed an estimated 3.5 million learners from more than 34,000 schools.