Govât told to speed up implementation of national feeding programs
In this 2018 photo, children receive free meals sponsored by a Korean religious group during a daily feeding program inside the Baseco Compound in Manila.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Gov’t told to speed up implementation of national feeding programs

(Philstar.com) - February 17, 2021 - 11:56am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling on the government to accelerate the implementation of national feeding programs to address rising hunger in the country, noting that these programs already secured appropriations for 2021. 

She specifically addressed the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Zero Hunger, which was formed by President Rodrigo Duterte last year and is chaired by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. 

"The price of goods is rising, the number of unemployed people is also rising, the government's efforts must also be increased to prevent other problems such as malnutrition in our youth and women," Hontiveros said in Filipino. 

For the senator, there is no excuse to delay the implementation of nutrition and feeding programs, especially given the urgent need to address what she called an imminent hunger crisis.  

“We already have existing policies addressing the nutrition situation of the country and the budget to be able to do so. What we need is a sense of urgency and to ensure that these programs are implemented efficiently,” she also said. 

Hontiveros noted the swift and effective execution of supplementary and school-based feeding programs under Republic Act (RA) No. 11037 or the ‘Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which she said had an allocated budget of more than P3.8 billion in 2021. 

"Even if there are no physical classes, nutritious food packs should be delivered to the children's homes," the senator said in Filipino. 

Citing data from last year, Hontiveros said the Department of Social Welfare and Development fell 700,000 children short of their 1.88 million targeted beneficiaries for its supplemental feeding program. Given rising unemployment and the rising prices of food, she noted that even more children are likely to be part of feeding programs this year. 

"During budget deliberations, we were able to boost the budget to help DSWD cover at least 25% of its shortage translating to an additional 185,000 children who can be accommodated in the program," Hontiveros said. 

"Gamitin sana ng tama at mabilis ang pondo (Hopefully, they use the funds correctly and swiftly)."  

'Protect pregnant women too' 

Hontiveros further urged the task force to scale up its efforts to protect pregnant women and their babies from hunger. She noted that sufficient funding and support for pregnant women and their newborns in the first 1,000 days is mandated by RA 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, a law which she sponsored and co-authored.

The senator said that the first 1,000 days of children are crucial to their proper growth, emphasizing the need to protect them from diseases and other complications caused by hunger. 

"We must protect our women and children at all cost because this also means securing our future." 

A Social Weather Stations survey published last December 2020 found that some 16% of Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger, defined as hunger due to lack of food to eat, at least once in the past three months. 

 — Bella Perez-Rubio

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