Free nutritious meals for students get full support in Senate

Senators have emphasized the importance of sustainable school feeding programs in public schools to address the hunger issues among students.

The Senate passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1279 or the “National School Feeding Program Act” which seeks to institutionalize school feeding programs across the country to combat hunger and undernutrition among students. Also known as the “Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino” Act, the proposed bill was approved 18-0 with no abstention.

The administration-backed measure aims to provide enough and appropriate food to more than 1.3 million Filipino students categorized by the Department of Education (DepED) as “wasted” or “severely wasted.” Studies have shown that the Philippines ranked 9th among countries with the highest prevalence of stunted kids.

Among the main objectives of SB 1279 included the establishment of free and sustainable feeding programs in all public schools across the country; the utilization of local raw products from small-scale farmers and businesses for the program; encouraging public schools to maintain the Gulayan sa Paaralan program; promoting community as well as private sector participation in the feeding program; and improving students’ performance in national aptitude examinations in particular, and in school academics, in general.

Senators have emphasized the importance of sustainable school feeding programs in public schools to address the hunger issues among students.

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, the former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and the principal author of SB 1279, said that by instituting an effective program with the participation of the community and the local and national governments, all public school children in the kindergarten and elementary levels will soon enjoy free access to nutritious food.

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

On the other hand, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri pointed out that the proposed legislation will benefit farmers and fisherfolk, as produce and ingredients to be used in the program would be sourced from local producers and suppliers. Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe, also one of the principal authors, said the legislation acts as a safety net for students suffering from malnutrition.

The House of Representatives has passed on third reading a counterpart bill, HB 5269 principally authored by Cebu Rep. Raul Del Mar, in June last year. With its passage in the Senate, the measure will now be sent to a bicameral conference committee.

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