Free lunch in public schools pushed

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Students enrolled in public kindergarten, elementary and high schools should be provided lunch for free, a lawmaker said on Sunday.

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In a statement, Rep. Roman Romulo of Pasig City said he wants Congress to earmark P80 billion for a free lunch program for all children enrolled in said schools.

“No child can learn on an empty stomach. Yet, many of our children go to public schools every day without a decent meal,” said Romulo, who leads the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

He said there are about 4.6 million families classified as indigent under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction. “Most of their children go to public schools hungry all the time,” he said.

The lawmaker proposed a National Free Lunch Program Act that seeks “to boost the attendance, nutrition, health and academic performance of children in the public schools.”

Under the measure, the free lunch shall start upon the official opening of classes and shall be served five days a week throughout the school year.

“The problem is self-evident. Many of our public school children appear emaciated and stunted,” Romulo said, citing a study that showed that 32 out of every 100 public school children aged five to 10 are underweight, while 34 out of every 100 are abnormally short for their age.

The lawmaker said the free lunch program will be run by a Child Nutrition Network composed of the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, National Nutrition Council, and Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

“Private corporations and individuals may also contribute to the free lunch under the Adopt-a-School Program, where they can deduct from their gross taxable income up to 150 percent of their donation,” he said.

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