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Track record shows NGO not repulsive

/ 08:57 PM August 23, 2013

This is in reply to the Aug. 19 editorial titled “Repulsive.” My name was mentioned to have “allowed the release of P14.4 million to Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc.” (Kalusugan at Karunungan).

Let me clarify. Kalusugan at Karunungan was a nonstock and nonprofit foundation, incorporated in 2001. I was one of 11 trustees who received no compensation whatsoever, as precisely prohibited in its by-laws. For seven years, the foundation was the main implementor of a sustained school feeding program (SFP) coordinated by three staff members.

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SFP was first launched in November 2002, with the first pupil-beneficiaries coming from Payatas-C Elementary School (Quezon City), Pinaglabanan Elementary School (San Juan), Ma. Aurora Elementary School (Baseco Annex, Manila) and Don Carlos Village Elementary School (Pasay City).

The program helped students who either dropped out or exhibited poor comprehension because of malnutrition. Grades 1, 2 and 3 students were particularly targeted because they were deemed to be in the most important phase of mental and physical development. Under the program, students were made to go through a 120-day feeding cycle, spread across three years. They were given deworming tablets, weighed and measured at the start. Their progress was then monitored on a quarterly basis.

The students were fed a menu specifically designed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI). The National Nutrition Council provided the basis for choosing the poor and nutritionally disadvantaged school-beneficiaries via the 1998 National Nutrition Survey.

Aside from FNRI, the foundation partnered with other prestigious institutions such as the National Dairy Authority, the National Nutritional Council, and the University of the Philippines-Visayas, particularly the Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement of the Rural Poor.

The Junior Chamber International-Philippines participated to monitor the results of the feeding program. Various LGUs were asked to identify specific beneficiary areas. Principals, through Department of Education offices in the host schools, were in charge of direct administration. Parent-teacher associations helped with the school feeding.

The program eventually benefited over 25,500 pupils in 50 public elementary schools in seven provinces and five cities throughout the country. The dropout rate in the target schools was also reduced by 50 percent. The program was accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, with which a memorandum of agreement was signed to specify the foundation’s activities and the program’s overall terms. In fact, the nutrition-based model the SFP pioneered in the Philippines, was eventually adopted by the DSWD for its subsequent SFPs.

During emergencies, the foundation also delivered food packs to disaster stricken areas, an expansion of its intervention areas as duly approved by the DSWD.

The foundation operated under utmost transparency and integrity. It regularly submitted liquidation reports and documentation, given that DSWD rules prohibit the release of subsequent tranches without them. It also informed the public of its activities, issuing occasional releases on the progress of its work.

According to the foundation, a complete Fund Utilization Report was submitted to the DSWD. It ceased operations in early 2010 when the government intensified its school-based child-feeding program. An application of termination of business with the Pasay City Hall was filed in 2012, which has since been granted.

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Repulsive may not be the proper adjective to describe this foundation; what it did was tried to help ease the country’s child malnutrition problem—a growing public health threat to the mental and physical development of our children.

—EDGARDO J. ANGARA

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TAGS: Edgardo j. angara, kalusugan ng bata, karunungan ng bayan inc., letters, NGO, school feeding program
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