Press Release
May 23, 2020


As more Filipino families go hungry amid the quarantine, Sen. Grace Poe said undernourished children deserve access to free, healthy meals or equivalent subsidy under the government's school-based feeding program.

Poe said she is relying on the commitment of Education Secretary Leonor Briones at a Senate committee of the whole briefing, when the senator asked about safe and effective ways of continually implementing the program amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"Ang mga silid-aralan ay maaaring walang laman habang ang mga bata ay nasa kanilang mga tahanan, ngunit hindi ang kanilang mga tiyan. Hindi dapat ikompromiso ang kanilang nutrisyon," Poe said.

Briones earlier assured that her department has started meetings with the National Nutrition Council, pro-child organizations and local government units (LGUs), including barangays, to update their data on the beneficiaries and to find out how to reach them.

Poe explained, "For a number of children, the meal they get in school could be the only meal they get for the day. Without it, they go hungry, risk falling sick, dropping out of school and losing their chance to get a better life."

Poe co-authored and co-sponsored Republic Act No. 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which institutionalized a national feeding program for about 12 million public elementary school students and children in daycare centers to address hunger and malnutrition in the country.

One of its three components is the Department of Education's (DepEd) school-based feeding program, which ensures undernourished children from kindergarten to Grade 6 at least one fortified meal for a minimum of 120 days in a year.

"Makakarating ang pagkain sa mga bata sa maraming paraan kung gugustuhin," Poe emphasized.

The senator said that by fortifying the immunity of the children, they will be less vulnerable to illnesses amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Poe lauded the initiative of LGUs cited by Briones, such as Valenzuela and Davao City, which were able to establish centralized facilities in order to reach out to as many children.

"It can be done, as demonstrated by other LGUs effectively implementing feeding programs," Poe emphasized.

Amid school opening challenges, the DepEd vowed to do all it can to make continued education possible and inclusive, considering students' lack of resources and tools for online learning.

The Social Weather Stations survey reported that 4.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger, 3.5 million of whom faced moderate hunger, while 699,000 suffered severe hunger in the last three months amid the pandemic.

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