"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, March 26, 2017

School Feeding Program

Nongovernment organizations as well as the Department of Education in the Philippines are actively pursuing programs aimed at addressing severe malnutrition in young children. Data show that such programs are well managed although metrics such as child weights need to be accurately measured to assess the actual impact of these programs. Addressing malnutrition of school-aged children is obviously a good first step to alleviate the harmful effects of poverty on education. Unfortunately, before a child enters a school, proper nutrition is already crucial for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Poverty during these early years are now well known to correlate with both behavioral and academic gaps as early as when a child enrolls in kindergarten.

Schools also try to inform children and parents of healthy nutrition through these posters.
Above copied from The Rappler
Johnson and Markowitz have recently published a paper in the journal Child Development:


Of course, one should note that the above study is from the United States where programs that respond to early childhood as well as maternal nutrition do exist. For example, in Fairfax county, there is a Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This program provides:
A Monthly Nutritious Food Package
WIC provides nutritious foods to supplement the dietary needs of WIC clients. The foods provided by the WIC program are rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamin A and C. These nutrients are commonly shown to be lacking in the diets of WIC clientele.
  • Pregnant women and partially breastfeeding women (up to 1 year postpartum) receive: juice, milk, breakfast cereal, eggs, cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, and beans or peanut butter.
  • Fully breastfeeding women (up to 1 year postpartum) receive the same as above, plus, cheese and canned fish.
  • Postpartum (up to 6 months postpartum) women receive the same as pregnant and partially breastfeeding women; but, no bread and less milk and juice.
  • Fully formula fed infants (0 to 6 months of age) receive: iron fortified formula or any other state allowable infant formula if ordered by the physician.
  • Fully formula fed infants (6 to 12 months of age) receive the same as above, plus, infant cereal and baby food fruits and vegetables.
  • Partially breastfed infants receive the same as fully formula fed; but, less formula.
  • Fully breastfed infants (6 to 12 months of age) receive: Infant cereal, twice as much baby food fruits and vegetables, and baby food meat.Children (1 year up to 5th birthday) receive: juice, milk, breakfast cereal, eggs, cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, and beans or peanut butter.
Even with this safety net, a significant number of young children still experience episodes of food insecurity. Social and emotional behavior, as well as approaches or attitudes toward learning are compromised even with just one episode.

Providing a healthy and education environment for children is important. This, however, needs to begin with ensuring a healthy pregnancy, and good nutrition during the infant, toddler and preschool years. Nutritional deficiencies at these erly stages can have dramatic effects on the development of a child's brain. This is no different from the fact that schools in the Philippines are facing serious challenges in the elementary years. Two years of additional high school cannot solve this problem. The government simply cannot wait until children enter school before it acts.



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