Tag: pagcor feeding program
For the many underprivileged Filipino children, food isn’t a basic right but a luxury that their families can’t afford. Find out how PAGCOR’s feeding program makes a difference in their lives.
Every day, seven-year old Malen Andrade together with her mother walks for an hour through the busy highways of Paranaque City to get to San Agustin Elementary School. The young girl’s family lives in a gillage, a colloquial term for “gilid” (side) and an upscale village where informal settlers thrive on its outskirts.
When I first saw Malen, a first grader with a fragile frame, I couldn’t imagine how she manages to walk to school for an hour every day. Her 50-year old mom Elvira Andrade shares that Malen should have been in second grade now. But since she was always tired, they decided let her quit schooling last year.
Little did Elvira realize that sending her daughter to school on an empty stomach could make her youngest child weak and sluggish. When Malen re-entered Grade One last school year, she was still the same frail little girl. At less than 13 kilos, she was underweight for her age.
When the San Agustin Elementary School was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of PAGCOR’s Feeding Program in Paranaque, Malen was one of the 50 malnourished students who qualified for the program.
Poverty and malnutrition
According to the latest report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 4 million pre-school children in the Philippines are underweight while 3 million adolescents are chronically energy deficient.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) also reported that the case of malnutrition and stunted growth among Filipino children is greatly influenced by the pre-natal practices of mothers who do not receive proper pre-natal care. Thus, malnutrition during infancy is carried on until the child’s growing up years.
When PAGCOR started its Feeding Program in San Agustin Elementary School in July 2010, Malen’s journey towards nourishment began.
The PAGCOR Feeding Program is designed to augment the existing programs of the Philippine government through a partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Education (DepEd). The Corporation subsidizes the nutritional needs of underweight children from community-based day care centers and public elementary schools nationwide. Its partners, meanwhile, identify the program beneficiaries and periodically assess their development within a four-month period, until the children reach their ideal weight.
Since its re-launch in July 2010, the PAGCOR Feeding Program has been carried out in public elementary schools in Davao, Mimosa, Laoag, Paranaque and Olongapo. Thousands of undernourished public school students have already benefited from the activity.
When I visited Malen and her classmates during one feeding session at the Agustin Elementary School, I saw how she finished her food with much gusto. Back home, she is a picky eater, says Elvira.
“Siguro kasi masasarap ang pagkain dito sa school. Hindi katulad sa bahay na halos pare-parehas ang ulam. At kadalasan, hindi sapat ang pagkain namin para sa boung pamilya. (Perhaps, it is because the food they serve at school is delicious. Unlike at home, we always have the same kind of viand. And more often than not, it is not enough to feed the entire family),” she reveals.
Without any source of livelihood, and having to care for a bed-ridden husband, Mrs. Andrade depends on her three children who get seasonal jobs at a construction company. But while making ends meet remains a struggle, she is grateful that her daughter can now eat nutritious meals everyday through PAGCOR’s Feeding Program. Malen has gained two to three pounds per month. Now, the once malnourished kid has reached her ideal weight.
“When children are well-nourished, they are more attentive and participative in school activities. Absenteeism is minimized and they get better grades,” Rhodora Villar, Principal of San Agustin Elementary School explained.
The road to a hunger-free Philippines may still be far from sight. But as long as organizations like PAGCOR continue to become part of the solution by curbing malnutrition among the poorest of the poor, there is after all, hope for children like Malen.