Participatory Action Research on School- and Community-Based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development
Click here to download activity briefProper nutrition plays a vital role in the overall growth and development of school children, especially in enhancing their academic performance. Essentially, nutrition is a function of children’s dietary habits and the kind of food they eat. However, many families, particularly in rural areas, do not have access to nutritious food which leads to malnutrition among school children.
The most recent update of the National Nutrition Survey showed that 29.1% of children 5-10.0 years of age in both rural and urban areas are underweight, while 29.9% are stunted. Wasting or thinness in the same age group was at a rate of 8.6%. High prevalence of underweight and stunting was found in the poorest quintiles with 42.5% and 48%, respectively.
According to the “World Declaration on Education for All”, poor health and nutrition are crucial underlying factors for low school enrolment, absenteeism, poor academic performance, and early school dropouts. In the Philippines, learning and academic performance of a significant proportion of school children are compromised due to ill health, hunger, and undernutrition. These problems typically arise due to lack of access to nutritious food (particularly vegetables) because of low household incomes that cannot cover the families’ basic needs.
On the instigation of the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd), SEARCA, in cooperation with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), will implement the project “A Participatory Action Research on School and Community-based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development”. It is envisaged to be a precursor of a nationwide program that addresses community food and nutrition security, specifically food utilization component, through the establishment of school gardens while promoting among students and teachers an appreciation of gardening and agriculture, in general.
The goal of the project is to improve the nutritional condition and dietary habits of school-aged children by increasing production of locally adapted vegetables through school gardening and consequently contribute to the community’s food and nutrition security.
Specifically, the Program aims to:
Increase diversity and availability of food within the local community that will meet the nutritional needs of children;
Increase the knowledge and improve the skills of students and teachers on food production and nutrition through experiential learning activities that inculcate the importance of agriculture, environmental concerns, and the use of locally adapted green technologies; and
Reduce families’ food expenses, create savings, and provide an alternative source of income for families to alleviate poverty.
Educational - Increase the relevance and quality of education of schoolchildren through experiential learning activities in food production and nutrition
Nutritional – Improve food diversity and availability to meet nutrient-deficiencies and enhance the prospects for community food security
Economic (Long-term) – Lower costs, create savings, and provide an alternative income source for families to address poverty
The project is expected to run for one year starting January to December 2016. School gardens will be established in six selected schools (5 primary and 1 secondary) in the province of Laguna in the Philippines, in cooperation with DepEd, the school authorities, and the UPLB technical team. Initial planting materials will be sourced from concerned government agencies (e.g., DENR, DA, BPI, etc.), but seed saving/preservation will be practiced and nurseries will be established as a sustainable source of seeds/planting materials. Experts from various partners will be invited to train and assist in the school gardening activities in each school. After two planting cycles, SEARCA will evaluate the school gardens in all participating schools. The school with the best school garden will receive a reward in the form of assistance to the school library and other facilities which will be part of SEARCA’s Adopt-a-School initiative.
It is also proposed that this program will be up-scaled to other countries in the region. In countries where the project will be adopted, it is envisaged that other SEAMEO Center/s will be the lead implementers.
The learnings from the Philippine pilot sites will be used in other countries. It opens up the possibility of exchange visits and mentoring workshops among participating centers. It should be noted however that upscaling of this projects with other centers in other countries will entail a significant amount of financial resources. These resources will come from national government, counterpart of SEAMEO Centers (SEAMEO College through the SEAMEO Secretariat) and a third party donor institution.
Project implementation is subdivided into three (3) phases, namely: the preliminary phase, establishment and maintenance phase and the value-adding phase.
The preliminary phase includes the selection of pilot schools, conduct of planning workshop, assessment of existing school gardens, baseline study on the nutritional status of children, preparation of garden plans, curricula review and acquisition of garden inputs and structures.
Phase 2 involves the establishment and maintenance of the school gardens, development of lesson plans integrating agriculture and nutrition concepts to the current curriculum, development of training manuals, organization of core groups and establishment of linkages and cross-visits and monitoring of project sites.
Phase 3 includes the following activities: harvesting of produce, assessment of garden produce and utilization, endline study on the nutritional status of children, awarding of outstanding school garden, development of upscaling strategy and organization of a national conference.
 8th National Nutrition Survey: Philippines. (2013). Food and Nutrition Research Institute. Department of Science and Technology.