/ 13 May 2021

MORE children could be fed if the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Education would study the success of community pantries and partner with non-government organizations, Senator Grace Poe said on Wednesday.

Poe said that the two government agencies alone have almost P10 billion which they can use to set up food pantries that will serve meals to millions of children in schools and day care centers this year.

For 2021, the DSWD has a budget of P3.83 billion for its Supplemental Feeding Program that could cater close to two million children in day care and early child care community facilities.

DepEd, on the other hand, has P6 billion for its School-Based Feeding Program, which has a goal of feeding 1,775,349 children with nutritional deficiencies this year.

“The funds can be leveraged to extend the reach of the feeding programs,” Poe said.

“The community pantry experience shows that there is tremendous goodwill among our people just waiting to be tapped for a great cause and addressing child hunger is definitely one,” she added.

Poe said that partnerships with church groups, civil society, business associations and local governments “will relieve teachers of non-teaching work, mobilize volunteers and promote transparency in funds use.”

Poe said the suspension of in-school learning during the pandemic pose many challenges in the implementation of the feeding programs.

Poe urged the government to draw lessons from the community pantry phenomenon saying “this admirable display of community solidarity can be harnessed for the welfare of children.”

“If it takes a village to raise a child, the same village would act as one in protecting its most vulnerable during trying times,” she said.

The senator stressed that the feeding programs must be up and running because “hunger is a lethal side effect of the pandemic.”