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GOV’T ADAPTS NATIONAL FOOD POLICY AMID PANDEMIC

Government is in the process of calibrating the soon-to-be rolled out National Food Policy (NFP) in order to address reported rising cases of hunger, one of the expected adverse effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles revealed this on Monday in response to a mobile survey recently released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which showed that 7.6 million Filipino households had experienced involuntary hunger in the three months prior to the conduct of the survey from September 17 to 20, 2020.

“We want to come out with a policy framework that will not only address the immediate impact of the pandemic on hunger, but will also provide a long-term strategy to eradicate hunger by 2030.”

“The figures validate the views of experts warning us that following the COVID-19 pandemic, the next biggest challenge we will need to overcome is hunger,” said Nograles, head of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger.

The Palace official explained that the different components of the NFP seek to address the food needs of all Filipino families.

“One key result area is to increase the productivity of our farmers and fisherfolk. This will ensure abundance of food supply that would lead to stable food prices,” said the Malacañang official.

“However, even at lower prices, food will still be inaccessible to families if their breadwinners are unemployed. This is why we must push for programs like urban gardening and home farming, wherein families can grow their own produce, para kahit kulang ang kita, makakakain ang pamilya.”

Nograles also pointed out that the recently-passed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, include interventions that could help address hunger while the government finalizes the NFP and its various projects.

These include cash-for-work programs, emergency subsidies, and funds for micro, small, and medium enterprises through the banking sector––all geared at fueling economic recovery and providing incomes for struggling families.

Another government intervention that would help alleviate hunger among children is the Supplemental Feeding Program that is expected to begin once classes resume in public elementary schools across the country on October 5.

“We have had a downward trend in hunger since the start of the Duterte admin up to the time before COVID-19 reached our shores.”

Republic Act 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to implement a national feeding program for undernourished children attending public daycare centers and public schools from kindergarten to grade six.

“We have been coordinating closely with DepEd and DSWD to ensure that the feeding program for undernourished children at our public daycare centers, kinder and elementary schools is implemented successfully. Sila ang most vulnerable kasi hindi naman sila makakapag-trabaho,” said the former legislator from Davao.

“Ganitong mga feeding programs at iba pang mga government interventions, lahat bahagi po ng ating National Food Policy,” added Nograles.

The NFP will be launched on October 16, to commemorate World Food Day. It will outline the country’s anti-hunger priorities based on a comprehensive understanding of the problem of hunger and related issues, and will provide a roadmap for achieving zero hunger.

Among the issues the NFP will address are (1) food production; (2) food accessibility and availability; (3) nutrition; and (4) food sustainability and resiliency.

“Tuloy-tuloy po ang pagre-review at pag-finalize ng iba’t-ibang bahagi ng NFP para matugunan nito ang problema ng kagutuman. We want to come out with a policy framework that will not only address the immediate impact of the pandemic on hunger, but will also provide a long-term strategy to eradicate hunger by 2030.”

According to Nograles, the Duterte administration has shown the capability to address hunger in the past, as “We have had a downward trend in hunger since the start of the Duterte admin up to the time before COVID-19 reached our shores.”

“Some might say it is more challenging now to fight hunger amidst a public health emergency as we are battling two fronts. But if we ensure that all the mechanisms are properly executed I am confident that we will be able to resume the progress we have made,” assured Nograles.

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