Delegates from six Southeast Asian nations gathered together for a dialog and to exchange information on the best ways to provide nutritious meals in schools.

The three-day meeting hosted by Cambodia, in coordination with the World Food Programme, was particpated in by the Philippines, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Timor Leste.

The event from July 11 to 13 was facilitated by Cambodian Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Dr H.E. Dr Hang Chuon Naron, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

Dialogues specifically focused on school meals as the WFP, a United Nations agency and the world’s largest humanitarian food assistance, noted that providing school meals was not only for the students' health and nutrition, but likewise provided a safety net for them to continue attending school.

The WFP provides school meals or snacks to over 17 million children in 62 countries.

During the event, delegates were able to observe the host country’s practices such as its Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSF) wherein  local farmers and suppliers sell their crops to schools, creating business opportunities while ensuring fresh produce is used for school meals.

Participants observed school meal activities in the Siem Reap province. Cambodia initially relied on feeding programme initiated by donors, until the country developed a self-sufficient system that would enable them to address under-nutrition and economic growth simultaneously.

“In the Philippines, we fully recognize the importance of feeding programmes as a sound investment in education. We have also found it to be effective in encouraging parents to send their children to school as well as keep them in school,” according to Education Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del Bustamante Pascua.

Mr Pascua assured that school feeding programmes in the country are in place, providing meals to undernourished students nationwide to improve absenteeism and nutrition. The feeding programme has complementary activities such as deworming, handwashing and toothbrushing.

The Department of Education (DepEd) initiated the School-based feeding Program (SBFP), as statistics showed more than 1.9 million severely wasted and wasted children nationwide from kindergarten to Grade 6. These students have registered to join the feeding programme which would be in effect for the school year 2016-2017.

Congress is set to pass a bill related to school feeding under the proposed Pagkain Pinoy para sa Batang Pinoy Act. Similar to the practice Cambodia, it is pushing for local gardens, farmers and fishermen to supply schools with their produce that will be used in feeding programmes. MIMS

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