By Dexter A. Galban, Assistant Deputy Minister for Operations of the Department of Education
The Government of Philippines is ensuring that school children receive iron-fortified rice and milk to tackle micronutrient deficiencies and improve their learning capacity. This level of commitment is not a surprise given that the Philippines Government is one of the countries that submitted early its commitments to the School Meals Coalition in 2021. Since then, the country has made huge strides in strengthening partnerships both within and outside government. It is also one of the countries leading the way in holding itself accountable to its commitments.
The Philippines Government partnerships to ensure that children receive iron-fortified rice and milk to tackle micronutrient deficiencies and improve quality of learning. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud
On 8 June, the government hosted a Multisectoral Assessment session to discuss implementation of their priority areas. The meeting was attended by Departments of Education, Health and Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute; the National Dairy Authority; Philippine Carabao Centre; the World Bank; WFP; UNICEF; FAO; and the Embassy of Finland. The stakeholders assessed progress in the implementation of the national commitments so far, and partners identified such as FAO identified new areas of collaboration. FAO offered to strengthen the supply and production side of the School-Based Feeding Programme (SBFP), not just through the capacity building on improving productivity but also in organizing smallholder farmers to be able to meet the supplies the school meal programme require.
The Assistant Deputy Minister for Operations of the Department of Education, Mr. Dexter Galban explains how the Government has changed its approach to SBFP after they joined the School Meals Coalition.
The Philippine Department of Education remains committed to our shared goals with the School Meals Coalition. Importantly, we continue to expand partnerships to further improve the delivery of nutritious meals to reach all children by 2030. After joining the School Meals Coalition in 2021, one of our priority commitments was to provide iron fortified rice (iron) to address malnutrition.
Through the SBFP and the Nutrition Support Units, which fall under the Office of the Assistant Operations and supported by the Bureau of Learner Support Services, we have made significant progress towards making Filipino children healthier, nutritious food more accessible, and reaching key milestones in our holistic child development programs.
In Philippines, school meals are keeping girls in school and helping children to be more active in class and improving their learning ability. Photo: WFP/Rein Skullerud
One area we are investing in is fostering inter-agency alignment with the Department of Health and other education agencies. This will contribute to providing a healthier learning environment to our learners through the adoption of the Healthy Learning Institutions framework. This framework strategically aligns with the department’s existing Oplan Kalusugan sa DepEd, exemplifying our continued efforts to strengthen the SBFP and a comprehensive health and nutrition campaign whether in distant learning modality or during face-to-face classes.
The Department is facilitating an in-depth review of our Policy and Guidelines on Healthy Food and Beverage Choices in Schools and in Department of Education Offices to intensify the promotion of healthy food choices. This is complemented by the issuance of a Department of Education Order on the prevention of overweight and obesity among learners and personnel. On the other hand, we have resumed our efforts to ensure food safety within the public school system by training health personnel on basic food safety, hazard analysis and critical control points, and food safety officers, in compliance with Republic Act 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013.