Fighting Malnutrition in Daycare Centers: Is It Feasible?

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Last week, I stopped by a local daycare center with hopes that the visit would inspire a new report. As you are about to read, I was not disappointed.

Barangay 19 is one of the smallest barangays in Bacolod City, located in the province of Negros Occidental. Though not very populated in comparison to other Barangays (neighborhoods), it gained notoriety in 2009 when seventeen people perished in a fire that destroyed sixty homes. More than a hundred families were displaced, but they recovered quickly due to the outpouring of help from different neighborhoods and charities.

Smiling faces greeted me and when I asked for directions, I was politely ushered towards the Barangay 19 Daycare Center.  Daycares here in the Philippines are attended by children three to six years of age and would be considered as Kindergarten and/or Junior Kindergarten in the west. The center is a bit tiny in size but looks nice.  It is colorful, easy on the eyes and spacious, enough to hold a class of 25 to 30 students. The classroom is painted a light green with pastel flowers. I was told that volunteers visit every now and then to give the room a new a freshly painted look.

I arrived at around noontime and the daycare class had just ended. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to meet and chat with two of the daycare teachers. The teachers (Ma’am Tinosan and Ma’am Velez) were really nice; looked and sounded stern. Both were in their mid-thirties and both shared warm, comforting smiles, reminding me somehow of my late grandmother.

The children had been dismissed for the day so we talked without interruption inside the main classroom. I asked them to share their typical school day and what the children were like.  Despite being exhausted from looking after 30 preschoolers, Ms. Tinosan took the time to explain.

The children arrive every morning at 8:00 am and begin their day with a hygiene check which is typically a check of nails, ears and hair as well as a child’s temperature. Once this is completed, the children sit down and the opening lesson begins with a prayer.

This is followed by “circle time”, with songs and play activities. For snack time, the kids are served juice and rice porridge. When done, class resumes with activities until noon.

I was pleasantly surprised with how orderly everything was. The snacks are fresh and they the teachers make fresh batches juice packs daily. Ms. Tinosan informed me that she often donates school supply sets and hygiene kits to her young students. I was originally happy with our government, thinking that there was an allotted budget for the daycare’s needs. This was not the case and it was the teachers who shelled out money to provide for the children. They set aside an amount from their monthly paychecks to buy soap, small towels, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo for the children.

When I asked both teachers how much they earned every month, they naturally refused to answer, but instead replied that their paycheck was not enough to supplement their daily needs and heavily relied upon the money sent to them every month by their children who were working abroad. Still, whatever amount of money they earned, both Ms. Tinosan and Ms. Velez make it a priority to supply whatever is necessary for their students, from snacks to school supplies, because in most cases, the parents of these children can barely put food on their tables.

Government’s Action Plan

The government provides support, but it is minimal and hardly enough to attend to children living below the poverty line. In 2016, a budget was allotted for day care centers in the hope of abolishing malnutrition.

The Senate approved the addition of one billion into the budget for feeding children under the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This amount would increase to 4.427 billion by 2017. The budget will enable daycare centers to feed a total of 1.74 million children from two to four years old for a total of 120 days.

Minimal Budget on Day Care Feeding Programs

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto pointed out the fact that the budget increase to fight against malnutrition is still small compared to the economic loss that the country is facing due to child malnutrition. A malnourished child’s food budget is smaller to the budget allotted for the prisoners in the Philippines, according to law makers.

“An amount that is small compared to the estimated P328 billion annual economic losses caused by childhood malnutrition, if we are bothered by the small food budget given to convicts, then we should be outraged over the pitifully smaller allocation for meals of children in daycare centers and schools,” Recto said when he discussed the budget increase for the feeding programs.

The Implementation

The lawmakers approved the 8.9 billion government budget spending program which is allotted for the school feeding. With the goal to end malnutrition, lawmakers and educators are working hand in hand to provide the nourishment that these children need. As of today, budget money has yet to reach Bacolod City and the surrounding regions.

“The school feeding program ensures that our children are properly nourished to enable them to grow up healthy, smart and alert. At the same time, by institutionalizing this program, we are giving livelihood opportunities for local producers and suppliers, as the ingredients for the menu will be sourced from them,” Grace Poe stated as she discussed the implementation of the school feeding programs.

 What Can We Do to End Malnutrition?

As Filipino citizens, we may not have much extra income in terms of providing for the people in need. But we can, however, raise awareness and educate them on how to live within their means, and raise extra income. Yes, it’s never easy for families living in poverty to provide for their children, but we, as regular civilians can help and educate in a way that the impoverished will be aware of the potential projects that they can work with to provide for their families.

The government gives out subsidy to some families, and LGUs (Local Government Units) are also provided with funds to support their residents. Organic farming is one of the best ways to provide good food right in their own backyard. Setting up a small business can provide families a method to supplement their daily needs.

Editor Comment: Government programs and budgets in the Philippines are very often altered to care for more pressing needs.  Without foreign aid, budgets are simply pieces of wishful thinking on paper and the present administration has, for whatever reason, said no thank-you to European aid.  PhilippineOne representatives will be returning to this daycare (and others) in October to offer monthly assistance and to ensure that these children are never malnourished.  If you wish to help us in any manner, please email info@philippineone.com

Sources:

http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/11/26/16/senate-pushes-for-feeding-program-budget-hike

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