By Liane May Punsalan
Typhoon notwithstanding, it was business as usual, or in this case, feeding as usual in five schools in the town of Pinabacdao in Samar.Since July, two hundred local elementary students have been eating nutritious lunch every school day.
This is being made possible through the “Busog, Lusog, Talino” (BLT) nutrition program which is a joint undertaking of the Jollibee Foundation (JF), Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) and the local government of Pinabacdao (LGU). It is aimed at addressing hunger among children, helping them stay in school and improving their learning. The program is also being implemented in ZFF’s 12 other partner-municipalities.
Despite the onslaught of typhoon “Ramon,” parents remained undaunted and proceeded to prepare food for students who are under the BLT program. Attendance was almost perfect in all five schools.
On the average, according to Barangay Nutrition Scholar (BNS) Marina Wenceslaso, “six to eight parents are helping out daily.” She adds that “pupils are really eager to eat their meals.”
While menu planning and cooking supervision is done by the school’s feeding coordinator, parents of the students do the marketing, cooking, and actual feeding.
According to JF, by having this set-up, no additional work is imposed on teachers while at the same allowing parents to learn about preparing affordable but nutritious meals. Given the parents’ critical roles in the feeding cycle, the LGU conducted a seminar on food safety and sanitation for them and mobilized the BNS and barangay (village) health workers (BHW) to help the parents.
Halfway through the program implementation, improvements have been observed.
According to BHW president and BLT point person Maria Rosario Achazo, “almost 65% of the pupils have already attained a normal body mass index level.” Jocelyn Solayao, teacher-in-charge of Madalunot Elementary School, also said “there are noticeable developments in the weight, general appearance, attendance, and academic performance of the pupils.”
Luzvie Tepase, a 30-year-old mother whose son is part of the feeding program, said her son is “heavier, looks healthier, and now enjoys eating vegetables even when at home.” According to Solayao, positive changes in the behavior of parents have also been observed.
“Parents are constantly learning new and exciting ways in cooking the meals.” Solayao added that parents have started growing their own vegetables like Tepase who has malunggay (moringga) growing in her backyard, while some are maintaining gardens in the school.
The program also managed to foster improved community participation and stakeholder support. The barangay and school officials in Laygayon organized a bayanihan (community cooperation) for the construction of their feeding center, tables and chairs. The parents contributed firewood, utensils, vegetables, and cash for additional feeding goods while the LGU provided cooking pots.
Success of the program has prompted Pinabacdao mayor Mario Quijano to think of implementing the program in other schools. “Given the initial results of the program, we are looking towards expanding BLT in five more schools.”