As the nation slowly recuperates from the permanent and abrupt changes brought about by the pandemic, it appears that school-going children and adolescents still pose a population that suffers from nutritional challenges. According to the Department of Education spokesperson Michael Poa, the year 2022 has yielded 1.7 million learners falling under the wasted and severely wasted category (Sevillano, 2022). From undernutrition to obesity, the spectrum of malnutrition tends to be an overlooked issue for students, particularly those in senior high school, ultimately affecting their academic performance. The Assetance believes that certain measures could be implemented to slowly but surely address this issue starting and focusing on ABM Students.
The impending launch of the “Kalusugan Food Trucks” led by the Office of the Vice President (Ombay, 2022) could potentially become a key element in solving nutrient deficiency among students, as we know that this is a step in the right direction in addressing malnutrition and hunger among students. Nutrient deficiency, specifically iron deficiency, as portrayed in a certain study, can result in tardiness and poor school attendance (Taras, 2005). Breakfast programs, such as the School Breakfast Program led by the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, improve a student’s scholastic performance and cognitive functions (Malki, 2018). Researchers widely agree that those who regularly eat breakfast have a tendency to achieve higher scores in mathematics, science, and English tests compared to those who do not eat breakfast at all (Morales et al., 2008). However, some of the results were inconsistent— another study suggested that although the regular breakfast eaters had significantly higher marks in science and English compared to the no breakfast group, the two groups achieved the same score in mathematics (Gajre et al., 2008). It can be argued that breakfast positively affects a student’s behavior and performance (Adolphus et al., 2013). In line with this, The Assetance has suggested that the Department of Education, through the Secretary and Vice President Sarah Z. Duterte’s leadership, consider integrating this into their Kalusugan Food Truck project. By distributing free or low-cost breakfast meals, learners have the potential to tackle their classes at their optimal state.
Aside from highlighting the importance of breakfast in a student’s diet, The Assetance believes that nutrition education is also vital in making sure that students can make healthy food and beverage choices. After all, a certain survey says that students who pay attention to their health and nutrition can likely have a higher GPA than those who do not (Malki, 2018). Adolescent school-goers, like ABM students, usually lean towards making poor nutrition choices and habits (Demory-Luce & Motil, 2012): one could be experiencing undernutrition because of pressure to achieve a certain weight (Pattinson et al., 1957), while the other could be obese due to stress-induced overeating (Ackard, 2003). Continuously reinforcing nutrition awareness in the education system is possible through, among other projects, involving the parents and the community in creating school nutrition programs for the students (Kwatubana & Makhalemele, 2015).
With regard to government initiatives, the School-based Feeding Program (SBFP) was implemented in partnership with other agencies. This program, aiming to improve nutritional status among learners through 120 continuous feeding days, resulted in a 98.86% improvement in nutritional status and attendance by pupils after the conclusion of the program (Papica, n.d.). This leads The Assetance to believe that a student’s nutritional needs could be met if the meals from school canteens were planned in accordance with a certain standard by licensed and registered nutritionists and dieticians. Although the country already has an existing guideline mandating school canteens to sell nutrient-rich foods, it is apparent that the majority of school lunches in the country today consist of rice and processed meat (sausage or meatloaf) or foods with little to no nutritional value. In a selection of dishes available, vegetables would be the least purchased food by students (Angeles-Adeppa et al., 2014).
In a before-and-after intervention conducted by a group of researchers, the majority of students from Carlos P. Garcia High School warmly favored nutritionally balanced meals, the same way they expressed their liking for regular school meals. The students who participated were of different grade levels, mostly adolescents from senior high school. “Nutri-meals,” developed by chefs and nutritionists, were served in standardized portion sizes on plates with partitions. The students had no option to choose between meals or dishes, as compared to regular school meals wherein a selection of viands is presented. This experiment showed that “nutri-meals” provided the students with a significantly higher intake of vegetables, increasing more than sixfold. It’s safe to assume that the energy and nutrient intake also increased, leading to students being more productive and ready for learning (Angeles-Adeppa et al., 2014). The Assetance