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Volunteers ensure no child gets hungry in Valenzuela City

Emman is one of the kitchen volunteers in Valenzuela City (Contributed photo)

If popular K-Pop band BTS has an "army" of followers, so does Valenzuela City, which also has an "army" of volunteers and nutritionists in charge of feeding 13,000 children every day for a complete cycle of 120 days.

Hundreds of these volunteers include parents, community leaders, professionals, and daily income earners willing to commit their time, expertise, and care for their young Valenzuelanos.

This localized version of the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP), launched by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., which aims to address malnutrition and other nutrition-related issues in the country, has implemented an extensive, well-funded feeding initiative for this purpose. Thanks to the program's success over the past years, no child within city limits attends school hungry. What started small has now expanded into a comprehensive feeding system, reaching even marginalized areas.

"Mahigit na isa’t kalahating taon na kaming nagbo-volunteer dito. (We have been volunteering for over a year and a-half now),” said Emman F. Flores, one of the 12 volunteers on-shift, and a business person residing in Barangay Arkong Bato, one of the 33 villages comprising the northern metro city.

“Parang mga anak ko na rin ‘yung binibigyan namin ng masusustansyang pagkain sa tuwing nandito kami (I feel that we are giving servings of nutritious meals to our very own children),” he said with a sweet smile, as he busily mixes a portion of vegetable and chicken soup.

The feeding program's effective design focuses on fully meeting nutritional needs and taking a holistic approach to children's health. 

Among this cycle's beneficiaries include 8,914 citywide daycare children and over 4,684 identified wasted and severely wasted kindergarten to grade 6 students.

The month of November marks Children's Month in the Philippines, aiming to raise awareness of issues affecting youth. One major problem facing Filipino children is malnutrition, with alarming rates of hunger and undernourishment. 

Recent data paints a concerning picture of hunger in the Philippines. A 2020 study by Social Weather Stations found 31 percent of households experiencing hunger for over 30 days, with 9 percent in extreme hunger. In 2021, estimates showed 2.9 million Filipino children face hunger–13.1 percent of the youth population. Clearly, hunger remains a serious threat to children's health and development.

A Model Feeding Program 

The program's effective design focuses on fully meeting nutritional needs and taking a holistic approach to children's health.

To further improve its feeding operations, Valenzuela City has broken ground on a dedicated Central Kitchen Building. Opening in early 2024, the two-story facility will soon house committed volunteers and nutritionists overseeing meal preparation and distribution.

The said infrastructure initiative is intended for the advancement of the Enhanced Citywide School Feeding Program that was implemented through the utilization of the Central Kitchen. 

In particular, the Central Kitchen leads the provision of nutritious meals among wasted and severely wasted children in public schools as part of the city’s Education 360° Investment Program that aims to holistically uplift the quality of local basic education, starting from nutrition. 

The new 2-storey building, located in Barangay Malinta, Valenzuela City, will house major facilities including the main kitchen, cold storage, general supplies storage, a loading bay, a parking area, a generator room, a pump room, a temporary waste holding area, a food preparation room, a packaging room, a staging area, and an administrative office. 

“If you are asking why building this is very important, there are 70,000 reasons why, because since we opened the Central Kitchen in 2012, we were able to feed more than 70,000 beneficiaries. That is why we are dedicating this day to our more than 1,000 kitchen volunteers, because without them, we will not be able to provide the food we need for the beneficiaries,” said Mayor Wes Gatchalian. 

The central kitchen will boost capacity, ensure quality control, diversify menus, facilitate expert collaboration, and empower the community. By consolidating resources, the city can reach more children in need.

Inclusive, Proactive Approach

Valenzuela's Central Kitchen demonstrates an inclusive, caring strategy to reduce youth hunger. Every child deserves the chance to succeed and thrive, unhindered by malnutrition's effects.

The new central kitchen represents the city's constant commitment to nurturing its youngest generation. 

As Children's Month reminds us, we all must work to provide brighter futures for Filipino children. Valenzuela City's efforts set an inspiring example to follow for other institutions in the country in our bid to curb malnutrition and give future generations a healthy mind and body. (PIA-NCR)

About the Author

Gelaine Louise Gutierrez

Information Officer II

National Capital Region

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