How School Lunches Are Changing The Future For Children In The Philippines
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Matthew 25:35-36
Poverty is a major social problem in many parts of the world, including the Philippines. Nearly half the population in the Philippines live in poverty, and it tends to be most severe in rural areas. This problem affects education, which contributes to a cycle of greater poverty levels and a declining education system. Through several gardening programs, children in the Philippines are able to break through this cycle of poverty and learn about proper nutrition. They are also able to attend school and pass their knowledge to further generations.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
According to a recent study, approximately 20 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. Out of that 20 percent, over 165 million children suffer from irreversible damage to their development each year due to poor nutrition. In the Philippines, poverty often forces children from school. Either the parents can’t afford to send the children to school, or the children must quit work in order to help support the family. Aside from the developmental delays that make it difficult for these children to learn, children living in poverty often have trouble concentrating and tend to suffer from chronic illness. In order for these children to get the education they deserve, the cycle of poverty must be addressed.
Homegrown School Meal Program
One method of tackling the poverty facing Philippine children is through the Homegrown School Meal Program according to the Unilever Foundation. Founded in 2014, this program works hand-in-hand with local farmers to help them increase the quality and quantity of their crops so they can supply the food to local schools. Locals from the community use the ingredients from these farms to cook nutritious meals for the schools. The entire community takes control of the education system, those involved earn wages for their work, and the children are provided with warm and healthy meals.
Teaching Proper Nutrition
Other gardening programs provide a link with school nutrition and gardening. One such program integrates gardening within the school curriculum. Children learn how to produce and plant a diverse garden, which contributes directly to the school’s lunchroom menu. This gardening program is an environmentally sound program producing a wide range of vegetables without using harsh chemicals of any kind that can pollute the groundwater. This feeding program created a list of recipes that are kid-friendly, so they could be used within the school system.
Lessons in Conservation
Conservation plays an important role in the linked gardening programs. The summer months when the children are out of school are usually the driest and the gardens are left unattended during this time. This is done not only to save water, but to allow new children to start the garden over by pulling weeds and preparing the soil. Crop conservation is taught and serves a focal point for saving specific crop varieties. Often, schools within the area have a seed sharing program where different species are shared with one another. This ensures diverse crops and strong species.
Along with proper nutrition, these gardens help teachers teach students about climate change and the role of weather in crops. Children who grow their own crops are more likely to eat healthy foods throughout life and are much more likely to teach their own children about proper nutrition and farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, integrated nutrition programs should be implemented at all age levels to help improve food security and eliminate poverty.