February 23, 2024

The chairperson of the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture said the Department of Education’s school-based feeding program would require a whole-of-government approach to be an effective intervention to address undernutrition among school children.

Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said local governments should be tapped to implement the feeding program to improve the nutritional status and performance of learners, considering that there are about 28 million students enrolled in 47,000 DepEd schools.

“We need the assistance of the local government because of the number of students we have. In fact, we have about 27 to 28 million students in our 47,000 DepEd schools. To be honest, we need to help the children in this regard and we need the national and local governments to work together,” Romulo said.

The feeding program is projected to provide nutritionally balanced meals or food products for the entire academic year or 220 days, plus milk for 55 days, to “severely wasted and wasted” children from Kinder to grade 6.

“Wasted” children are those who are underweight for their age.

Romulo said the budget allocation for the school-based feeding program has been increased to account for the expansion from 120 days to 220 days.

From P3.3 billion in 2022, the budget for DepEd’s feeding program increased to P11.7B for school year 2024-2025, which translates to P25 per meal and the program’s expansion to 220 feeding days.

Aside from the school-based feeding program, the DepEd also launched its mental health program, which has a budgetary allocation of P210 million this year to hire more mental health personnel in schools; download program support funds to field offices; and salary grade increase for registered psychologists.

Romulo said the House has already passed on final reading a measure that would promote the mental health and well-being of learners.

He said the bill seeks to strengthen the promotion and delivery of mental health services in basic education through the hiring and deployment of mental health professionals.

To lure more mental health professionals into the basic education system, House Bill 6574 also provides for the hiring of a sufficient number of mental health professionals with salary grades not lower than Salary Grade 16, including guidance associates and psychometricians at the entry level of Salary Grade 11.

The measure likewise allows public schools to hire graduates with relevant background in psychology or similar fields, who may not yet qualify as mental health professionals, to provide school-based mental health services, provided that they undergo training on capacity building as determined by the DepEd. – PNA