The Philippine Star

School feeding program continues despite distance learning


Even with the shift to distance learning, millions of public kindergart­en and elementary students will still receive nutritious food packages under the student feeding program funded by the government.

But unlike in previous school years when the meals were prepared and distribute­d in schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) this year revised the guidelines for the school-based feeding program to take into account the prohibitio­n on face-to-face classes.

Based on the revised guidelines, the type of feeding commodity this school year was changed from the provision of usual hot meals to ration of nutritious food products to target beneficiar­ies.

The mode of delivery was also changed from school-based administra­tion of the actual feed to delivery of the food to the homes of the students.

“Ordinarily, a feeding period of 120 days is ideal to achieve a significan­t impact on the nutritiona­l status of children,” read the guidelines approved by Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

“However, due to the changes in the school year and in considerat­ion of the possible lapse of the fund by yearend, the feeding period for School Year 20202021 is reduced to 60 days for the regular component and 50 days for the milk component,” it added.

DepEd initially allocated a budget of P5.97 billion to provide nutritious food packages to 3.55 million students and milk for 1.77 million students.

It later downloaded an additional P230 million to cover another 1.7 million students for the milk component of the program.

According to DepEd, nutritious food products such as fortified or enriched breads, root crops, fruits and vegetables shall be provided to the beneficiar­ies as substitute to hot meals.

School and division officials were also encouraged to support food technology products developed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, such as the enhanced Nutribun.

Pasteurize­d and sterilized milk, meanwhile, shall be sourced from local dairy farmers and cooperativ­es supplied either by the National Dairy Authority or the Philippine Carabao Center.

School divisions that are insufficie­ntly covered by the supply map of the two agencies may be allowed to procure commercial powdered or sterilized milk upon the submission of necessary certificat­ions.

For distributi­on to students, DepEd said schools have to strategize schemes for delivery, such as requesting parents to pick up the food and milk on designated days and time, delivery to homes by school personnel or partnering with barangay or non-government organizati­ons.

“Nutritious food products to be distribute­d to homes of the learners shall be hygienical­ly packed in environmen­tfriendly bags. The use of plastic bags is discourage­d. Parents who will pick up the food products can also bring their own reusable bags,” read the guidelines.

“Even if nutritious food products and milk are to be consumed at home, it is important to communicat­e to parents that the beneficiar­ies shall be the ones to consume the food and milk,” it added.

DepEd said the nutritiona­l assessment for baseline data is suspended due to the pandemic, with the beneficiar­ies determined based on the data on wasted and severely wasted students last school year.

The nutritiona­l assessment following the feeding program is also temporaril­y suspended pending the issuance of an advisory for its continuati­on.

The school- based feeding program is implemente­d to address hunger and encourage learners to enroll and attend their classes. It also aims to contribute to the improvemen­t of their nutritiona­l status, help boost their immune system and improve their health and nutritiona­l values.

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