SENATOR Grace Poe wants an additional outlay of P2 billion to support next year’s implementation of the school-based feeding program, which will include the purchase of kitchen equipment.
She pressed for the additional budget to ensure that the 2.5 million “wasted and severely wasted” school children or those with chronic malnutrition would be properly supported in 2018.
There is a huge backlog in food preparation and storage equipment in public schools “which in turn hamper the latter’s mission to provide education and nutrition,” she said.
“We need enough facilities to prepare nutritious food for millions of students under the feeding program,” Poe said.
“We must invest on the future of our youth through proper nutrition,” the senator added.
Poe said the additional funding will be used for the procurement of equipment necessary for the establishment of new school kitchens with adequate storage, and upgrading of existing ones.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has allocated P5.3 billion in the proposed 2018 General Appropriations Act for the feeding program.
In this year’s national budget, the DepEd allotted P3.9 billion to feed 1.8 million students.
The feeding program targets wasted and severely wasted Kinder to Grade 6 pupils nationwide for a total of 120 feeding days.
Poe said various research done by local groups and international monitors suggested hunger, malnutrition and stunting—or children who are short of their age—are still prevalent in the Philippines.
She said the government should start treating kitchen equipment as a basic education facility that can be used to feed kids in school and to teach them home economics courses.
Need for school canteens, kitchens
Poe said massive funding for school-based feeding underscores the need for well-equipped school canteens and kitchens.
This year, the DepEd has a budget of P3.93 billion to feed Grades 1 to 6 students one meal a day for 120 days. This will go up to P5.3 billion next year.
“But the question is, are there enough school resources that will aid in the implementation of this program?” Poe asked.
There are many schools without or lack space for a canteen, she said. Many more have no kitchen. “Without these were will they cook food for the children?” Poe asked.
“The answer lies in conferring upon kitchen equipment the same status and importance as books, computers, wash facilities,” she said.
Poe added kitchen equipment does not only prepare healthy food but are teaching tools as well. “They cannot just watch cooking shows on YouTube.”
“They are essential ingredients in cooking classes. Remember that one of the tracks in the K-12 senior high school curriculum is voc-tech [technical-vocational], of which culinary arts is one of the offerings,” she said.
Poe said a program to erase the backlog in school canteen and kitchen equipment “would hit two birds with one stone: you will have the equipment for feeding and for teaching.”
She said that if the DepEd is having a hard time spending allocations for buildings, “then perhaps it should divert some of the funds in buying easy-to-acquire stoves, refs, ovens.”
Due to procurement problems, the DepEd has been reverting to the Treasury unused funds and is projected to return again P21 billion in expired and unutilized appropriations by the end of this year.
This prompted Poe to seek for an increase in the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses fund of a school so it can have a budget to operate school kitchens and canteens.