P50B FUND FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL
FEEDING AND MEDICAL CHECK UP PROGRAM
More than 13 million students enrolled in public schools and day care centers will no longer experience hunger or malnutrition during school days with the passage of House Bill 5584 filed by AAMBIS-Owa Partylist Rep. Sharon Garin, Marikina 2nd District Rep. Miro Quimbo, and Biliran Rep. Rogelio Espina.
House Bill 5584 or the proposed “Malusog na Estudyanteng Pilipino Act of 2015” aims to set aside 50 billion pesos to fund a free meal and regular check up program for students enrolled in all public schools including day care centers, kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools in the Philippines.
Data from the United Nations World Food Programme indicate that six million Filipino children suffer from severe malnutrition. This is consistent with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) study in 2011 which found out that three (3) out of 10 Filipino children aged 6-10 years old are underweight.
“The number of Filipino children going to school with an empty stomach is alarming. This obviously compromises the learning of children in classrooms. This proposed measure aims to arrest this issue,” Rep. Garin said.
Garin insisted that it is the primary responsibility of the state to ensure proper education and health care among its citizens especially the children.
If the bill would be enacted into law, the government will feed Filipino children in day care centers and public schools with nutritious and balanced meals for free during school days from Mondays to Fridays.
Aside from meals, the students will also be given regular medical check-ups, vaccination, and vitamins supplements under this measure.
National Nutrition Council (NCC) Executive Director Maria Bernadette Flores supports the measure. “This (bill) will encourage poor parents to keep their children in school. School feeding programs will definitely enhance enrollment to our public schools and reduce absenteeism among Filipino students.”
If the bill becomes a law, the NCC will be the lead implementing agency of the program with the aid of the following agencies: Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agriculture (DA) and FNRI.
DepEd will establish standard lunch program in the public school system while the DSWD will do the same for day care centers among different barangays nationwide.
The DOH and FNRI shall identify the fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods which are appropriate for the feeding programs in the specified locality while the DA shall take over in encouraging school gardening in all public schools.
Non-governmental Organizations and private companies that wish to help the government in the feeding project will be given incentives in the form of income tax exemptions or business permit fee discounts under the proposed measure.
Rep. Espina said that though the government takes a primary role in feeding and nourishing our public school children, the parents whom the children are with during after school hours and non-school days must also be tapped to help.
HB 5584 also provides for the orientation and training for the parents in order to provide practical and user-friendly nutrition information for them to complement the efforts of the government.
The program shall follow a 5-year full implementation phase. In its first three years, the program shall be implemented in the public schools of the top 10 provinces where the poverty rates are the highest.
On the fourth year onwards after the enactment of the law, the program shall be implemented in all daycare centers and public schools nationwide. /MP