Government should start treating kitchen equipment as a basic education facility that can be used to feed kids in school and to teach them home economics courses, Senator Grace Poe stressed.
Poe said there is a huge backlog in food preparation and storage equipment in public schools “which in turn hamper the latter’s mission to provide education and nutrition.”
The legislator said that schools today are not just oriented “to feed the mind, but also to do feeding programs.”
“This is due to the fact that schools are where millions of children hungry for knowledge and food go. School is where the war against illiteracy and hunger is fought. If many of our children go to bed hungry, then we should see to it that when they go to school, they are fed,” said the lawmaker, who authored a measure seeking to institutionalize the school-based feeding program.
The senator said massive funding for school-based feeding underscores the need for well-equipped school canteens and kitchens.
This year, the Department of Education (DepEd) has a budget of P3.93 billion to feed Grades 1 to 6 students one meal a day for 120 days. This will go up to P5.3 billion next year.
“But the question is, are there enough school resources that will aid in the implementation of this program? Maraming schools na wala o kulang ang espasyo ng canteen. Mas marami ang walang kusina. Kaya kung wala nito, saan magluluto ng pagkain para sa mga bata?” she cited.
Poe said the answer lies in conferring upon kitchen equipment the same status and importance as “books, computers, wash facilities.”
She said that kitchen equipment do not only prepare healthy food but are teaching tools as well.
“They are essential ingredients in cooking classes. Remember that one of the tracks in the K-12 senior high school curriculum is voc-tech, of which culinary arts is one of the offerings. Kung walang stove, paano matuto ang bata? Di naman pwedeng manood lang ng cooking shows sa YouTube,” Poe emphasized.
She said a program to erase the backlog in school canteen and kitchen equipment “would hit two birds with one stone: you will have the equipment for feeding and for teaching.”
Poe said if the DepEd is having a hard time spending allocations for buildings, “then perhaps it should divert some of the funds in buying easy-to-acquire stoves, refs, ovens.”
Due to procurement problems, the DepEd has been reverting to the Treasury unused funds and is projected to return again P21 billion in expired and unutilized appropriations by the end of this year.
She also called for an increase in the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses fund of a school so that it can have a budget to operate school kitchens and canteens.
A recent government survey pegs at 18 million the number of Filipino children under 10 to be undernourished.