When the school year began last June 2016, a social media post showing a picture of a young school boy eating his lunch baon in a classroom gained much attention and sympathy from the netizens because of the story behind it. A typical school packed lunch, as depicted on tv commercials, would have rice, fried chicken or hotdogs in it, but this boy had only “asin” and a little oil to flavor his rice as his lunch baon. It was touching for many because despite his difficulty of walking 2 kilometers to reach school and a poor diet, he is still striving in school. But will his perseverance sustain him in school with improper diet?
This month of July is the well-known Nutrition Month, that has always been celebrated by the DepEd. Having “asin at mantika” as a regular ulam does not supply enough nourishment to grade-school kids like the boy in social media. Studies have always demonstrated that nutrition affects thinking skills, behavior and health, and all are factors that influence academic performance.
The Department of education has already collaborated with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health to answer for malnutrition and encourage vegetable gardening in schools. DepEd Memorandum No.191 series of 2013 stipulates that “Gulayan sa Paaralan” should be implemented in all public schools especially those with high prevalence of malnutrition, high poverty incidence, low academic performance and other related factors. Another initiative is the DO No.37 series of 2014 commonly known as School-based Feeding Program of SY 2014-2015. It aimed to address undernutrition and short-term hunger among public school children. These are but few of the numerous efforts to solve malnutrition and short-term hunger in school children. Success however cannot be measured by the number of memorandum or orders passed for project implementation. The bigger challenge lies on how effective and sustainable are these projects in terms of addressing the real issue.
A very good determinant of willingness to implement a project is on how much value you put on that particular subject matter. Primary and secondary schools should learn or appreciate the value of sustaining vegetable gardens not only limited to feeding and nutrition purposes but also because gardening skills among children preserves local and scientific knowledge especially on organic farming that is helpful for the environment. More importantly, as pupils work in team to create gardens, they develop or instill core values that are now diminishing because of the presence of some technologies. These values are honesty, perseverance, hardwork and team work. These are the reflections from one successful “Gulayan sa Paaralan” in Camarines Sur.
Moreover, the importance and value of gardening has heightened due to increasing pressure for strengthening local food systems through smallholder farmers and schools especially in developing countries and vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, like the Philippines. According to the World Food Program, food security is going to be extra challenging in the near future. So the perfect time to do vegetable garden is now.
So while we produce food and promote good nutrition with school vegetable gardening, the future of our children is also being secured with knowledge and skills they gain for their empowerment and for future resiliency. Thus, school gardening hits at least 3 birds with one stone. This is why school gardens make the best harvest, and that is total child development. There is no excuse that this should not be included or integrated in primary schools’ curriculum. With this in practice in the entire DepEd, there’s no doubt to see or read future social media blogs of how free lunch that is derived from school vegetable gardens helped a young poor boy finish school successfully. Then we have proved once again that poverty is really not a hindrance to success.
Kervi Don A. Abendaño