Bill seeks to address child malnutrition-A A +A
Saturday, October 19, 2013
ALARMED by a recent study stating that an increasing number of Filipino children are underweight and suffering from acute malnutrition, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara urged the government to address the problem immediately.
In Senate Bill 202 or the proposed Child Nutrition Act, Angara seeks to institutionalize a child nutrition and school feeding program across the nation.
According to a recently published study of the Department of Science and Technology's Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 20.2 percent of Filipino children (or one out of five children) aged 0 to 6 years old are underweight for their age. Children who are underweight suffer from severe malnutrition.
Angara insists there is a need to reduce the prevalence of underweight children to 13.6 percent by 2015 in order to meet the country's millennium development goal for child nutrition.
"There is an urgent need to immediately provide for a legislated child nutrition program targeting public elementary schools throughout the country. This measure would definitely help us achieve our goal," the lawmaker said.
However, current school feeding programs being administered by the Department of Education (DepEd) are limited as these programs rely heavily on allocations from budgets of senators or congressmen, or donations from private individuals and corporations, he added.
Under Angara's bill, a budgetary allocation shall be made to institutionalize a school feeding program throughout the public elementary school network, and to provide incentives to private companies that will donate to the feeding program.
"In the long-term, these children are more susceptible to infection and disease, and usually, with more serious outcomes due to the effects of malnutrition. Consequently too, they absent themselves from school more frequently and have lower scholastic performance," the neophyte senator said.
The bill aims to establish a school nutrition program, where the National Nutrition Council, Department of Health, and DepEd shall initiate, maintain and expand a system of distribution of milk, fortified snack foods and vitamin supplements to public elementary school entrants.
Beneficiary students will be required to eat and take their free snacks and vitamin supplements inside the classroom during recess time, five times a week.
The proposed measure also intends to make young students aware of the importance of good nutrition by providing relevant and user-friendly nutrition information and education materials.
"In recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn, school feeding and other child nutrition programs must be extended, expanded, and strengthened," Angara said.
"I am pushing for the immediate passage of this bill in order to safeguard the health and well-being, and to meet more effectively the nutritional needs of our children," he added. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)