Press Release
August 14, 2014


Senator Sonny Angara on Thursday stressed the need to institutionalize a child nutrition and school feeding program in all public schools across the country to address the growing number of undernourished children in the Philippines.

According to 2012-2013 figures of the Department of Education (DepEd), more than half a million or 534,054 Filipino school children are severely wasted or are thin for their height.

A school-based feeding program has already been executed to restore undernourished kids to health and allow them to remain in school. Vegetable gardens have also been set up in schools as a source of healthy ingredients for the children's hot meals every morning.

However, DepEd, through its Health and Nutrition Center, admitted that due to lack of funding, it could only feed 42,372 school children, or 7.54 percent of the identified severely malnourished pupils, in 1,010 public elementary schools in 28 provinces.

Angara, a known advocate of educational reforms, noted that the most effective means to target childhood malnutrition is through the public school network.

Under his Senate Bill No. 202 or the "Child Nutrition Act," a budgetary allocation shall be made to institutionalize a school feeding program throughout the public elementary school network, and to provide incentives to private companies that will donate to the feeding program.

"Poor nutrition is among the top reasons for school dropouts. Since undernourished children are more susceptible to infection and disease, they absent themselves from school more frequently resulting to poor performance and poor learning outcomes," said Angara, who was former chair of the House committee on higher and technical education.

SB 202 aims to establish a school nutrition program, where the National Nutrition Council, Department of Health, and DepEd shall initiate, maintain and expand a system of distribution of milk, fortified snack foods and vitamin supplements to public elementary school entrants.

Beneficiary students will be required to eat and take their free snacks and vitamin supplements inside the classroom during recess time, five times a week.

The proposed measure also intends to make young students aware of the importance of good nutrition by providing relevant and user-friendly nutrition information and education materials.

"In recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn, school feeding and other child nutrition programs must be extended, expanded, and strengthened," Angara said.

Senators Grace Poe and Loren Legarda have also filed similar bills which have been referred to the Senate committee on education chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano.

The Philippines is the 9th country in the world with the most number of stunted children, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) 2013 study.

Moreover, a recent study of the Department of Science and Technology's Food and Nutrition Research Institute showed that 20 percent of Filipino children aged 0 to 6 years old are underweight for their age.

The Philippines must reduce the prevalence of underweight children to 13.6 percent by 2015 in order to meet its millennium development goal for child nutrition.

"There is an urgent need to immediately provide for a legislated child nutrition program targeting public elementary schools throughout the country. This measure would definitely help us achieve our goal. We must meet more effectively their nutritional needs to safeguard the future and well being of our children," Angara said.

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