“Ang kabataan, ang pag-asa ng bayan (the youth is the hope of the country)”, a quote from Jose P. Rizal, but, what is hope when the future is sick and unhealthy.
The concern that many Filipino families are unable to meet their basic food needs leading to their children going to school hungry has been existing for a long period of time. This led to the creation of the Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The program’s initial purpose is to provide food in addition to the regular meals to children currently enrolled in day care centers. At present, the program has shifted beyond the initial focus on the alleviation of hunger. Instead, they have refocused on improving children’s learning and modeling good nutrition.
Lachelle, a 4-year old daycare pupil who lives at La Trinidad, Benguet.
Her parents work as vegetable vendor for twelve to fourteen hours, from dusk until evening, and earns at least 1,000 pesos every day. They leave their house with their child asleep and arrive home to find her almost sleeping. In their absence, Lachelle’s nanny took the role of waking her up, preparing her food, fetching and accompanying her to school and other needs.
With the implementation of the Supplementary Feeding Program in all Child Development Centers, it is a must that every pupil enrolled should be weighed before the start of feeding, after three (3) months of feeding and upon completion of 120 days feeding. After bringing her to the Barangay Clinic for weighing, they discovered that Lachelle was underweight.
Aware of the life-long impact of malnutrition, Lachelle’s mother bought her vitamins and encouraged her to eat vegetables but to her dismay Lachelle refused. “Madina nga mangan nu nateng, karne ti birok biroken na” (She doesn’t like to eat vegetables, she always looks for meat.) says her mother.
Hunger to Hope
According to Child Development Worker Cora Fianza, Lachelle refuses to eat or touch her food during her first and second week because there were vegetables in every meal. With persistence, Ms. Fianza continuously explained the importance of vegetables and its contribution to the body. She also lectured about the connection of sanitation which includes handwashing and proper table manners. “We explain to the kids that we take their weight to determine who is eating and growing right” she said.
“Ang importansya ng feeding program ay para malabanan ang malnutrition. Hindi makakapag aral ng epektibo ang mga bata kung gutom sila (The importance of the feeding program is to fight malnutrition. Children won’t be able to learn effectively if they are hungry).” Fianza added.
Little by little, with relentless encouragement and seeing her classmates take the vegetables served to them, Lachelle touched her meal until eventually eating vegetable is no longer a challenge.
Because of the continuous implementation of the SFP and the partnership of the parent and Child Development Worker to encourage her, Lachelle showed gradual improvement. She achieved a normal weight and is maintaining it up to the present day.
Today, Lachelle is visibly healthier. She is now that one happy and active tot giggling with other kids, enjoying good health and nutrition. With her reaching the level of normal nutritional status, her teacher and parents were thankful with the program. The fear they were experiencing before has dissipated. Lachelle is a living testimony that the program had been a major and pivotal instrument in stopping future mental and growth retardation.
“Tadta, tinmaba sunan, pinmuskol buok na, active ken makita ti panagadkkel na (Now, she got healthier, her hair thickened, active and we can see her height increasing)” says the mother.
Lachelle is just one of the 9,374-day care children from Benguet who are availing of the Supplementary Feeding Program. Out of which there are already 377 children with improved nutritional status. This data is as of 31 December 2017.
By Mark Erik King D. Guanzon and Karen Joy Guiniawan