Press Release
December 13, 2016


Senator Grace Poe called on her colleagues in the Senate to support a measure institutionalizing a free feeding program in all public schools, as the Senate is expected soon to put to a vote the vital piece of legislation.

Poe, co-sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1297 or An Act Creating a National School Feeding Program to Combat Hunger and Undernutrition for all Basic Education Students, said it is important that proper support and investment in children will prepare them to become productive citizens.

"The day when not a single public school pupil is left behind on account of poverty and poor health is now on the horizon. This piece of inclusive legislation should be supported by every legislator," said Poe, who has been pushing for the institutionalization of an in-school free feeding program as her pet measure since she ran for the Senate in 2013, believing that an investment in the Filipino children's health and nutrition is an investment in the future of the country.

"Improving the nutritional well-being of our children requires government intervention because majority of Filipino families today still cannot afford to feed their children sufficiently," Poe said in her co-sponsorship speech, adding that despite years of much-touted economic growth, involuntary hunger and child malnutrition continue to be endemic in the Philippines.

Senator Benigno "Bam" Aquino III, chairman of the Senate education, arts and culture committee, and principal sponsor of SB 1297, endorsed the measure Tuesday for plenary consideration. Poe's SB 160 is included in the consolidated measure.

Poe cited a survey conducted by local pollster Social Weather Stations during the fourth quarter of 2015 which indicated that 2.6 million families or about 12 million Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

Incidence of underweight children up to five years rose to 21.5 percent in 2015, from 19.9 percent in 2013. Child stunting--the most prevalent form of undernutrition that has permanent effects on a child's growth and development--also rose to 33.4 percent from 30.3 percent.

The United Nations Children's Fund also reported that the Philippines was the ninth country with the largest number of stunted children in the world in 2013.

Save the Children had estimated that the "appalling state" of malnutrition cost the Philippines P328 billion or almost 3 percent of its gross domestic product and affected workforce productivity and education.

The overall economic loss consists of P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting, P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of current working-age population, and P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.

"Investing in the nutritional well-being of our school-children is money well-spent. Every P50 spent on school feeding, we could save P5,150 in future health, education and lost or low productivity costs brought about by childhood malnutrition," said Poe.

Poe said empirical data showed that school feeding program helped improve overall academic performance of students and reduced absenteeism.

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