TACLOBAN CITY-Average diets of Filipino school-age children 6 to 12 years old are poor in quantity and quality, according to the 2013 National Nutrition Survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST).  Of these children, four in five were at-risk of inadequate energy intake and almost one in two was at risk of inadequate protein intake. Coming to school on empty stomachs compromises the productivity of children, as they tend to become sluggish, less attentive and less participative. School performance may be affected over time if this situation becomes protracted. Given the link between diets, nutrition and performance in observation studies, these findings could play a significant role in the school-age children’s performance in school as well as school participation rates.

School feeding programs (SFP) bridge this hunger gap, at least for the period that a child attends school. Private companies had partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) in its “Adopt-a-School” strategy in order to complement and maximize resources. Initiatives from private companies came in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) function. A retrospective evaluation of school feeding programs (SFP) implemented by a private renewable energy company in 24 partner-schools for the school year 2012 – 2013 in five host communities was conducted by the FNRI-DOST from July to August, 2013.

The SFPs were evaluated in terms of potential contribution of foods served to recommended energy and protein intakes, nutritional status and mean quarter grade average as compared with schools without the feeding program. Depending on meals served and duration of feeding, results showed that the SFP had the potential to increase energy, protein and iron intakes by as much as 41.6, 24.6 and 31.1 percent, respectively. By the end of the school term, a decrease in the prevalence of underweight by 9.5 percentage points among SFP participants, while a 5.1 percentage point increase in the prevalence of underweight among non-SFP participants, were observed. In addition, significantly higher mean quarter grade average was recorded among SFP participants with an average grade of 79.2 – 81.2 percent, compared to non-SFP participants with an average grade of 78.6 – 80.2 percent.

The sustainability of the school feeding program appears high with the strong support of the school and the parent-volunteers in the private company’s SFP.  A limitation of the evaluation study’s research design is that results are considered associations rather than attributions to the school feeding programs. The evaluation of this program is part of the research functions of the Nutrition Intervention, Evaluation and Policy Section of the FNRI-DOST. The FNRI-DOST recognizes the value of investments in packaging nutrition intervention delivery systems and nutrition policy research in addressing malnutrition among vulnerable Filipino population groups.(PR)