Poor class attendance is tied to hunger and malnutrition: Senator Poe

Senator Grace Poe is pushing for the inclusion for final approval of the P8.73 billion funding of the government’s feeding program in next year’s proposed P3.767 trillion budget as she stressed that the program was a form of a safety net for students suffering from hunger and lack of nutrition.

The senator said there is a need to ensure the continuity of the feeding program as she said that poor class attendance is tied to hunger and malnutrition, a condition still prevalent in the Philippines where about one in 10 children aged five and below (7.9%) are wasted, one in five (19.9%) are underweight, and three in ten (30.7%) have stunted growths or too short for their age due to malnutrition.

Poe, co-sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1279 or An Act Creating a National School Feeding Program to Combat Hunger and Undernutrition for all Basic Education Students and also a staunch advocate of free nutri-meals for students, said a total of P8.73 billion has been earmarked in 2018 to bankroll the feeding program that will cover all “severely wasted,” or those with chronic malnutrition, and “wasted” pupils in an effort to improve their nutritional status at the end of 120 feeding days and increase classroom attendance and performance.

“Kailangan nating tiyakin na ang mga bata ay nakakakain nang sapat upang sila ay makalaban sa buhay. Huwag nating pabayaang kumakalam ang kanilang tiyan. Ang feeding program ay nagsisilbi ring ‘safety net’ nila–para mapabuti ang lagay ng kanilang kalusugan at maging mas aktibo sila sa kanilang pag-aaral,” the senator said.

Under the measure, the Department of Education, in coordination with the National Nutrition Council and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, shall draw up a menu according to age range, type of school, and local cultural eating preferences, within recommended standards and to be served to all public basic education students. The feeding program shall also be complemented by nutritional programs such as Gulayan sa Paaralan, micronutrient supplementation and proper hygiene and sanitation.

In a report published by the Save the Children entitled “Stolen Childhoods: End of Childhood Report 2017”, the Philippines ranked 9th among countries with the highest prevalence of stunting around the world, joining other poor nations such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Congo, Bangladesh and Tanzania where severe cases of malnutrition and stunting have been recorded. Over two-thirds of the world’s stunted children live in 10 countries, including the Philippines. (Source: Senate News)