Press Release
February 5, 2018

Senate passes bill to set up feeding program for Filipino children

The Senate approved today a bill that seeks to establish a national feeding program for public school students and children in day care centers to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in the country.

Senate Bill No. 1279, otherwise known as the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act, was approved with 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and no abstention. The bill was authored by Senators Gregorio Honasan II, Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino, Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villa, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

Aquino, former chairperson of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and principal sponsor of SBN 1279, said the bill sought to institutionalize an effective feeding program with the participation of the community and the local and national governments.

"Through this policy, school children in the kindergarten and elementary levels will enjoy free access to nutritious food, sourced from our local farmers, with the Department of Education (DepEd) ensuring that students from kindergarten to Grade 6 are provided with proper meals," Aquino said.

He cited in his privilege speech the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which showed that around 16 million Filipino children were considered undernourished.

While the DepEd has a school-based feeding program currently in place, Aquino said the government allocated only enough to feed around 500,000 severely-wasted students or about P4.8 billion in 2016.

Wasting or acute malnutrition is when a child's weight is below the recommended mass for his age and height. It is often used to assess the severity of an emergency because it is caused by illness or severe lack of food and is strongly related to mortality.

"The government spent only 0.52 percent of its annual national budget on nutrition. The global average is 2.1 percent. We need to allocate more to be at par with international standards," Aquino said.

Zubiri, co-sponsor of bill, said that despite the government's effort to combat hunger, data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) showed that there has been no improvement in the national date of wasted children from 7.9 percent in 2013 to 7.1 percent in 2015.

He said the same data showed that overall chronic malnutrition among children under five years old significantly increased to 33.5 percent from 30.5 percent in 2013.

Aquino said the passage of the bill into law would institutionalize a National School-Feeding Program that is properly funded, and "not subject to the whims of whoever is in Malacañang."

He said an initial appropriation would be sourced from the initial budget allocation of DepEd and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

On the other hand, Zubiri said the proposed legislation also sought to benefit farmers and fisherfolk as produce and ingredients to be used in the program would be sourced from local producers and suppliers.

"This program is a two-pronged approach in solving the malnutrition and hunger problems of our schoolchildren as well as giving more opportunities for our local farmers and fisherfolk to market their produce which in effect would increase their income," Zubiri said.

"This will not be the usual feeding program where children are fed porridge. The menu for this program would be intensively studied with consideration to many factors such as the age range and cultural eating preferences of schoolchildren," he noted. (PM)

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