Sen. Grace Poe said government’s free meals should be more accessible and efficiently distributed to ensure the nutritional needs of kids in public daycare and development centers are met.
Poe issued the call as she supported the Senate’s proposed higher funding for the supplementary feeding program from P4 billion to P6 billion in 2024.
“The funding for nutritious meals for our toddlers and kids is always worth fighting for in every budget season,” Poe said.
“Hopefully, with the budget, we can make the program more accessible and efficient,” she added.
Implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the program covers children 3 to 5 years old in supervised neighborhood plays and child development centers run by local government units.
The program is also a component of the DSWD’s contribution to the government’s Early Childhood Care and Development Program, and is in accordance with Republic Act No. 11037, also known as the “Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act,” which Poe authored.
For this year, the program has 1.8 million beneficiaries.
Poe stressed the need to provide assistance to children not only in their first 1,000 days but as they grow older to help in their proper physical and mental development.
“It is important to have the feeding program to higher grade levels, but the brain is really developed from conception until age two, that’s the critical stage,” she said.
“Maybe at the proper time we can evaluate again the program to see how we can strengthen it,” she added.
The senator said partnering with the private sector for the source of food supplies at lower costs should also be extensively explored.
For a more efficient rollout of the supplemental feeding program, Poe said the DSWD should work closely with the barangay officials in charge of the daily operations.
“More children are fueled for learning and development when they can count on nutritious, free meals,” Poe said
“There should be no letup in this initiative to provide our kids free meals, and we will make sure this is put at the fore in budget discussions,” Poe added.