PIDS: Only 23% benefited from government feeding programs

There is only 23 percent of children who have benefited from any government feeding program with many reported to need more nutrient intake, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Citing several government data, PIDS researchers stated in their study titled "Behind the Slow Start: An Assessment of Early Childhood Care and Development in the Philippines" that while only 28 percent of poor children in need of feeding support have received assistance, a considerable percentage from the richest group has also benefited from government feeding programs.

On the other hand, the percentage of children under two years of age, which is a critical period for development, who received government feeding programs, only stood at 17 percent.

The participation of children in feeding programs was lowest in the regions of Eastern Visayas, Metro Manila, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Central Luzon, based on data from PIDS.

“Among children aged three to six attending daycare or kindergarten, only around 35 percent are benefiting from the government feeding program. Only 34 percent of children aged 3 to 4 attending daycare centers have received feeding programs,” the study reads.

It also added that only 24.8 percent of children achieved the recommended energy intake, with poor children only taking around 19 grams and 40 grams of protein compared to their richest counterparts at 35 grams and 50 grams.

This and other issues result in chronic malnutrition among Filipino children wherein approximately 29 percent or about 3.3 million under five years old were stunted, a marker of chronic malnutrition, the PIDS said.

Based on the General Appropriations Act, the government’s school feeding programs are expected to spend P11.7 billion this year.

The PIDS, in response, said that there should be a reevaluation of the government’s feeding program, noting that it should be more focused on areas where there is a huge scarcity of resources.

“The government should comprehensively evaluate the school feeding program, starting with a thorough analysis of the adaptive challenges inherent in its Implementation,” it said.

“Given the scarce resources, we recommend a targeted allocation of resources to areas with the greatest need, aiming to improve the program's efficacy rather than dispersing resources indiscriminately across the country (short-term),” it added.