Fighting malnutrition with BLT-A A +A
Saturday, July 5, 2014
BACOLOD City and Negros Occidental may be among the most progressive cities and provinces in the country but both topped the list of having the most number of malnourished children in public schools in Western Visayas last school year.
There are about 27,500 malnourished pupils in public schools from kinder to Grade 6 in Bacolod and Negros Occidental, according to Dr. Eden Deriada, chief of the DepEd-6 Resource Mobilization Special Program and Project Division.
Deriada said malnutrition is a prevalent problem in all public schools.
Moreover, studies show that malnourished children perform poorly in school. Worse, children get absent or quit school because of hunger.
To address this problem, the DepEd National Office has issued a memorandum ordering all schools across the country to implement a school-based feeding program.
One group that rose to the challenge of minimizing malnutrition in schools is the Busog Lusog Talino (BLT) School Feeding Program of the University of St. La Salle (USLS) in partnership with Jollibee Foundation and other organizations and local government units.
In 2008, Jollibee Foundation invited USLS to co-implement the BLT School Feeding Program in Negros Occidental. Through its Institute for Negros Development (IND), USLS immediately embraced the calling, for it is within the Lasallian community’s mission to ensure that “no child should go to school hungry and that no child should quit school because of hunger.”
In 2009, USLS and Jollibee Foundation launched the partnership and started implementing BLT in 13 public schools in Bacolod, Bago and Talisay, and Murcia.
On its second year, in 2010, the BLT implementation drew more support within the university community with the synergy of its development-centered agencies such as the Balayan-Community Extension and Volunteer Formation Office, National Service Training Program (NSTP), the Integrated School Community Services Center, various colleges, student organizations, faculty and non-teaching associations.
In 2011, USLS reaped the fruits of its bridging leadership efforts as more BLT champions emerged which resulted in the participation of 11 cities and municipalities with 36 schools feeding 1,424 pupils.
The rapid expansion in the southern part of the province were made possible through the support of the Lasallian leaders in local government notably 6th District Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, former Board Member Emilio Yulo III and Himamaylan City Mayor Agustin Bascon who paved way for the scaling up of BLT.
The all-out support of 3rd District Rep. Alfredo Benitez and SK Federation president Thea Mae Dino complemented the BLT implementation in the three LGUs in the 3rd District namely, Murcia, Talisay, and Victorias.
The collective efforts opened door for the inclusion of the two other LGUs of the district, Silay and E. B. Magalona, by the 4th year of BLT in 2012.
For the 4th year, in 2012, USLS targeted 60 schools in commemoration of its 60th Diamond Jubilee, but with the overflowing support from more stakeholders, USLS reached 84 schools in 20 sites feeding a total of 3,360 pupils.
This week, last July 1, the BLD held its 5th Negros summit at the Santuario de Salle. About 150 stakeholders, funders, and implementers gathered in the annual event.
During the summit, USLS IND director Rhoderick Samonte and program officer Katherine Maguad presented the BLT Negros Report Card which detailed the accomplishments, challenges and financial reports for SY 2013-2014.
Deriada, who attended the summit, commended the valuable contribution of BLT in addressing undernourishment and malnutrition in the public schools.
Among the guests was Lasallian Brian Poe, son and supervising legislative staff of Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, whose office is working with the Jollibee Foundation for its school feeding program.
The senator’s office will study on how BLT is implemented and will identify best practices that will be helpful in levelling up the standards for an effective school feeding program. The senator has filed Senate Bill 79 or the proposed Sustansiya sa Batang Pilipino Act.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. has committed P1 million for the implementation of BLT in Calatrava and Toboso, whose remote barangays are considered conflict-affected areas.
To date, USLS manages the biggest coverage of the BLT School Feeding Program in Negros Occidental with a total of 103 public elementary schools in 24 towns and cities.
Its implementing partners are the Balayan Social Development Office, Betty Bantug Benitez Foundation, Business Resource Center, John B. Lacson Colleges Foundation –Bacolod, St. Joseph School-La Salle; while the cooperating partners are the Negros Nine Human Development Foundation, and the Rotary Club of Bacolod South District of 3850.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 05, 2014.