Daily Free Meal aids learning among Tagum’s kindergarten fellows
Words By Roy Banias
ENERGY GAP, micronutrient deficiency and the need for triple-boost advantage are few of the many child-health issues sensationalized by commercial products nowadays that are likely designed to exclaim the necessity for its patronage, but its messaging seems not to be effective for parents of kindergarten kids here in Tagum City.
Since 2011, kindergarten pupils in the 94 Child Development Centers (CDC) operated by the local government in Tagum are enjoying delectable weekdays as the City Social Welfare and Development Office has been successfully implementing its Supplementary Feeding Program – a recipe to fight malnutrition and dish up quality pre-school education.
The program design is simple. For 5 months straight or exactly 120 weekdays, the children will be fed with free and nutritious meals to be cooked personally by their parents in the CDC’s kitchen in order to improve their nutritional status. This was also done to effectively aid their interest in learning since it is a known fact that nobody learns with an empty stomach. The parents, meanwhile, will follow the strict menu provided to them by the CSWD as recommended by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in preparing the ‘hot lunch’ for the day.
“We chose the parents to cook the meal for the children because we know how a parent or a guardian prepares food for their kids, it is in the most delicious and nutritious way possible,” said Ms. Sally Balili, RSW, focal person of the feeding program.
Ms. Balili also highlighted that the keen participation of parents is a result of the series of Enhanced Parents Effectiveness Service (EPES) Seminars conducted by CSWD prior to the launching of the feeding program in every cycle.
Now that the program is on its sixth cycle and has produced successful results year after year, the budget set for its implementation ballooned to 10,105,560 pesos compared to the first cycle’s 5,754,000-peso allocation, thanks to the generous funding of the DSWD.
In 2016 alone, the program benefitted a total of 6,371 kinder kids in all 23 barangays of Tagum City. Notably, on the beginning of the program CSWD recorded 42 children as severely underweight but after the 5-month feeding scheme the number dramatically dropped to six (6) or barely 0.0 9% of the entire number of beneficiaries.
The records for obese children also showed positive changes. From 11, the number of children scaling this weight declined to two (2) or an equivalent of 0.03% of the population. On the other hand, the percentage of kids having normal weight significantly increased from 94.38% to 97.79%.
According to Ms. Balili, the positive results of the program can be credited to the close coordination of the parents and the day care teachers; the sincere support extended by the City Government of Tagum under the leadership of Mayor Allan Rellon; as well as the constant monitoring of the Technical Working Group of this program in each Child Development Center.
Aside from maintaining or improving the health conditions of the beneficiary kids, the program also contributed in lowering the cases of absenteeism among the pupils, with the tasty meals that entice them to go to school every day. Interestingly, the program also reported the attenuation of junkfood consumption among these children.
Another accomplishment emerging on the implementation of this program is CSWD’s 100% effective utilization of the allocated budget in every year as evidenced by full liquidation and the audit performed by the Commission on Audit which the Regional Office of DSWD considered as an action worthy for replication.
“The Supplemental Feeding Program is a foundation for these kids to know proper and good nutrition and a support to their formative education,” expressed Ms. Balili.
She underscored that the incorporation of healthy foods to the learning of the children is crucial to their holistic growth and a stepping stone into their individual academic success, as she pointed out that “ang batang healthy ay matalino sa klase.”