A revival of the “Nutribun”, a popular feeding program for students in public elementary schools in the late 1970s up to the 1990s, is being pushed as Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian is set to file a bill before House of Representatives.
Gatchalian, a member of the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture as well as on Higher and Technical Education, is finalizing details on the bill he intends to file in order to institutionalize the supplemental feeding program ahead of the school opening in June.
“We can revive the ‘Nutribun’ program and implement it nationally in all public elementary schools to make sure our children will be able to perform well and achieve their potential without worrying about having an empty stomach,” Gatchalian said.
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The National People’s Coalition member said institutionalizing the “Nutribun” feeding program is crucial to ensure a yearly budget for its operations.
The said program was first implemented by the government in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development. “Nutribuns”, short for nutritious buns, were made from wheat blend flour, non-fat dried milk, and later on, soy flour.
“Nutribuns” were initially distributed for free to elementary schoolchildren in the 1970s but it was eventually sold at around 50 to 75 centavos. The program ended in 1997 as the USAID observed other countries were in more need of food aid than the Philippines.
During his nine years as mayor of Valenzuela City, Gatchalian successfully introduced a feeding program among the 20,000 public elementary school students in the city which were given free lunch five days a week for the entire school year.
His successful feeding program helped Valenzuela City to be recognized by the National Nutrition Council as having the best initiatives in infant and young child feeding in 2012.
“How a government takes care of the children reflects its commitment to protect the vulnerable. The government should also view feeding programs as an investment for the country’s posterity,” said Gatchalian.
Statistics from the Department of Health during the 2012 to 2013 indicated that more than half a million schoolchildren are severely wasted, which means they are underweight for their height.
The World Food Program describes wasting as “an indicator of acute malnutrition that reflects a recent and severe process that has led to substantial weight loss. This is usually the result of starvation and/or disease.”
Last year, Manila’s local government revived the “Nutribun” program after at least 7,500 children from grade levels 1 to 6 in the city’s public schools were found to be “severely malnourished”. (Monica Cantilero)
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