By Maria Joby F. Zulueta, RN
Children go to school early every day. Armed with a whole luggage of school books and enthusiastic to what they are about to learn for the day. Quite an observer that I am, I noticed a lot of children going to school in different forms, status and condition. Some are garbed with sparkling white fitted uniform, while some are wrinkled mess. One may think that it could be a hand-down from elder siblings or a donation from whosoever. Some wear shoes, while some are on slippers. But these are just extras. What bothers me the most is their physical well-being. I could see pupils coming to class like they are about to collapse. A closer look and you’ll see some are pale, dehydrated and exhausted even at an early time of the day. Coming to school empty-handed is just fine, but to come to class on empty stomach is of great concern to me.
Thank goodness for the Supplemental Feeding Program and the initiative of schools, LGU and NGOs to implement it. This program helps school children with undernourished status to cope with body’s basic need for food so they could perform well in school. Basically, the selected pupil-beneficiary of this program shall undergo pre-medical assessment and deworming. Then, they shall be subjected to everyday feeding of nutritious meal for at least 100 – 120 days. Their nutritional status shall be monitored weekly or monthly for progress. And after that whole duration, an evaluation shall be conducted to monitor the success and rehabilitation of undernourished pupils.
This Supplemental Feeding Program does not begin and end with feeding the undernourished alone. The collaborative efforts of the stakeholders paved way to inclusion of parents to the program to address the need for manpower with regards to preparation and serving of meals. Involving parents could not just answer the need but also a way for them to be aware and more concerned in the well-being of not only their undernourished child but the whole family as well. The local government unit headed by City Mayor Joet Garcia is with us in our campaign for zero-malnutrition. His good office also provided livelihood packages to the feeding beneficiaries’ family for the program’s sustainability. The idea is for the continuum of nourishment of undernourished pupil at home. That the family would not be solely dependent to school for their child’s need. The livelihood packages empower parents to provide for the family’s basic needs.
But despite all of these, the rehabilitation of feeding beneficiaries remains low. Pupils come back to school undernourished year after year. It’s as if they only get to eat properly and gain weight when in school and included in the feeding program. Reports from feeding program coordinators has it that there are some who admits on not having meals at home because their parents would tell them that they would be fed at school anyway. There also some who would only come to school to eat then go home early to help their parents with chores. With all these, I can’t help but think if programs like Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) where beneficiaries receive cash allowances, Supplemental Feeding Programs, Livelihood Assistance and all other sorts of good-samaritan programs/projects for the indigents are really the kind of reaching out we should do for them. Are we really helping these people out? Or we’re just tolerating their laziness or lack of responsibility? There are those who are really worthy to be recipients of these and I hope they could be a role model for everyone else. We should be really careful in the selection of beneficiaries if we are to help. To help rehabilitate and assist other people to broaden their perspective is priceless, but to spoon-feed them with everything is not really help at all but a bigger dilemma in the future.
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