Schools told: Grow answers

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

SOME public schools do more than feed children’s minds; they also grow produce to feed children’s bodies, as part of the campaign to drive back malnutrition.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 and Department of Education (DepEd) 7 are trying to help raise the production of nutritious food and making these accessible to school children and poor households in Central Visayas by implementing the Gulayan sa Paaralan program.

Under the project, teachers were trained during the summer vacation, then expected to pass on their ideas about gardening to their students, said DA 7 Director Angel Enriquez.


The two line agencies heeded the call from the National Nutrition Council (NNC) 7 that local government units and government agencies continue to promote urban gardening in vacant spaces in the barangays and schools, to make fruits and vegetables available to poor households.

While they focus on areas based on poverty incidence, like Bohol and Negros Oriental, they also want to implement the program region-wide, including Metro Cebu and Cebu City’s mountain barangays.

The NNC recently pointed out that malnutrition has been dropping in the last 10 years, from 13.77 percent in 2004 to 5.54 percent last year. But it also appealed to government agencies to keep up programs aimed at fighting malnutrition among children.


According to DepEd Memo 191, series of 2013, the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) considers three criteria in implementing school gardens.

Schools are prioritized if these have a high prevalence of malnutrition based on the nutritional status report of the previous school year; these have high poverty incidence (typically belonging to fourth, fifth and sixth-class towns); these schools have a number of 4Ps beneficiaries; and have a low academic performance. (The government’s 4Ps program gives a monthly subsidy to poor families, as long as they meet conditions, like keeping children in school.)

Once children learn gardening, they will value and dignify their labor if they and their family will consume what they have planted and harvested, Enriquez said. They are taught the correct methods of vegetable production, especially proper seed selection and soil cultivation.

She said Cebu City’s schools are still suitable for school gardening because out of the 80 barangays, 40 are in the urban area, while the other 40 are considered mountain barangays, where many work as farmers.

Some civic groups that regularly feed children also encouraged officials and teachers of different schools to adopt gardening.

The Rotary Club of Cebu Gloria Maris has adopted the Labangon Elementary School in Cebu City for its regular feeding of pupils. The vegetables harvested from the school’s garden are used for the feeding sessions.

One hour

Pupils of the Labangon Elementary School spend at least an hour, two to three times a week to cultivate plants in their vegetable garden.

The gardening is part of the Home Economics and Livelihood Education (HELE) subject for Grades 4, 5 and 6 pupils in all public schools in the country. In a portion of the school, malunggay, alugbati, kangkong and pechay are already grown.

Leilani Bascon, a HELE teacher who also serves as guidance counselor of the school, said that this year, kindergarten and special education (SPED) students were also required to tend to a vegetable garden.

For children in kindergarten class, the parents are encouraged to spend time in the school garden and help cultivate the plants, she added.

Pupils in Grades 1, 2 and 3 are also required to plant onions in a pot.

Each pupil has one pot to cultivate every day.

Aside from the gardening itself, Bascon said that HELE teachers also discuss gardening theories and their applications.

DepEd officials last Friday inspected the garden of the school. The agency is holding a contest to find out what school in the city has the most well-tended gardens, as part of the Nutrition Month celebration last month.

Participating schools were required to plant kamunggay, alugbati, kangkong and pechay.

Last year, Labangon placed third in the same contest.

Lack of space

In Mandaue City, almost all public schools maintain vegetable gardens, said Benjamin Tiongson, administrative officer of DepEd Mandaue City Division.

However, the gardens are very small because the schools lack spaces.
In the Mandaue City Science High School, students and teachers grow squash, onions and other vegetables on a small plot of land.

Teacher Farah Judaya said their produce is not enough to prepare food for all students. When they conduct feeding activities, the school has to buy vegetables from outside.

“Finding a place to plant vegetables is a challenge,” she told Sun.Star Cebu. Judaya said the school ends up selling their produce to outsiders.

In Tabok National High School, students and teachers used to maintain a vegetable garden on a small plot, about six by 12 feet. They had to give up the garden to make way for the construction of a school building last June.

Teacher Anita Semblante said they are now planting vegetables in spaces along the school’s fence. To address the lack of spaces, Semblante said they are planting vegetables in containers.

Income source

Erwin Caparida, principal of the Talisay City Central School, told Sun.Star Cebu that every school year, 20 classes from Grades 4, 5 and 6 are required to maintain a 200-square-meter garden within the campus.
For a year, pupils from the three grades are asked to maintain their vegetable gardens. Once they harvest the vegetables, they would use them to feed their classmates.

Because the students’ produce is more than enough, the teachers also sell some of these and their earnings serve as seed money for their vegetable garden in the succeeding year.

In Barangay Bateria, Daanbantayan town, northern Cebu, all 654 students in Bateria Elementary School benefit from the produce of their 300-square-meter garden through the school’s feeding program every Friday.
They also earn from their harvest.

Corazon Mondello, school district 1 supervisor of Daanbantayan, said each level has their own vegetable plot.

Among the vegetables being grown in their garden are camote, eggplant, okra, alugbati, kamunggay, squash and sponge gourd.

She said that if the vegetables, which are cheap and organic, are more than enough for the feeding, these are sold to regular and walk-in buyers.

Generoso Monterde, school principal, said the parents have attended the seminar initiated by DA in August last year. The parents also have their own vegetable garden and help the students maintain their own plot.

Mondello said the vegetables in the school are cheap and organic.

Earnings are used to buy fish or meat, which will also be included in the feeding program.

Even before DepEd’s memo was issued, Bateria Elementary School had long been maintaining its vegetable garden.

“Dako kaayo ni’g impact para nila. Kung magkugi lang sila, pwede pa sila makakwarta. Makakaon pa gyud og mga preskong mga pagkaon (Vegetable gardening has been a big help to the students. If they put their effort in this activity, they will not only earn money, they can also eat fresh vegetables),” Mondello said. (EOB/RVC/RSB/JKV/FMG)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 03, 2014.

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