Jollibee Foundation feeds kids, keeps them in school

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For every 100 students who enter grade 1 in the Philippines, only 40 end up finishing high school; and 20 of the 60 who drop out do so before the 3rd grade.

This is not due to lack of access, since education in the country’s public schools is free up to high school, but more due to lack of motivation on the part of the students and their families.

 The reasons behind the high drop out rate are socio-economic in nature – children need to help their parents earn additional income for their families’ sustenance; there’s not enough money for school supplies and other school-related needs; and children do not have enough to eat.

Nourishing bodies, feeding minds

To address the problem of hunger and malnutrition among schoolchildren, Jollibee Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Philippines’ largest food service conglomerate Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), embarked on a school feeding campaign, dubbed “Busog, Lusog, Talino” (BLT) Program.

“Among the major reasons for the high drop-out rate especially at the elementary school level are hunger and undernourishment. Being a food service company, it was but natural for Jollibee to embark on a feeding program as its intervention to try to keep children in school,” explains Ma. Gisela Tiongson, Jollibee Foundation’s Executive Director.

The BLT program provides daily lunch for undernourished Grades 1 and 2 pupils in select schools for about eight months of the school year. Meals are prepared by the schoolchildren’s parents based on low cost and nutritious menus. Parents are also given seminars on cooking, health, and nutrition organized by the Program’s local partners, which include non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and local government units.

Sites and schools are selected based on: DepEd data on which areas have high drop out rates; leadership of the LGU and the private sector, and willingness to partner with the Foundation for the program; and presence of JFC stores in the area.

Partnerships and volunteerism are key to success

“The success of the BLT program hinges on the partnerships developed and strengthened at the local levels. It has brought together public elementary schools, parent-teacher communities, local government units, civil society (NGOs), and our employees to mitigate hunger and undernourishment,” Tiongson says.

To monitor the Program’s implementation, volunteer employees from JFC stores in the area regularly visit the schools, along with Community Nutrition Officers.

“Being a BLT volunteer was an eye-opener for me. I hope that BLT can inspire others to take similar steps in addressing other pressing problems in education,” declares Kelvin Jay Jacinto, a crew member of Jollibee Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.

Since its inception three years ago, the program has fed over 6,000 pupils in 141 schools in 26 towns and cities nationwide. Most of the outputs were achieved during school year 2009-2010, when BLT nourished 4,674 1st and 2nd graders from 135 public elementary schools in 25 towns and cities all over the country, which resulted in eight out of 10 pupils reaching their normal weight-for-age level at the end of the 136-day (8 month) feeding cycle.

During the 2010 BLT National Partners Meeting held last May 31 to June 2, Jollibee Foundation Chairman and the company’s CEO Tony Tan Caktiong exhorted the participants to continue pursuing their noble work. “If we believe in our dream and pursue it with passion and discipline, then whatever the dream may be, we can achieve it.”

The annual meeting brings together over 65 BLT partners nationwide, representing the academe, NGOs, LGUs, other corporate foundations, and Department of Education partners to present the program’s accomplishments for the previous year, agree on action plans for the coming year, and share valuable inputs from key resource persons.

The partners appreciate their annual get-together, which not only gives them an idea of where they are and how much they have accomplished, but also gives them a roadmap to show them where they still need to go.

“I learned a great deal from the sharing of my co-participants and speakers. The knowledge and information I derived from the Partners Meeting will help me in successfully implementing the program in our locality,” shares Nel Labrador, Community Extension Coordinator of Christ the King College, a new BLT partner institution in Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental.

Keeping the program going

While the program has been successful in mitigating hunger, it still has a long way to go. Sustainability is the key to ensuring that grade school pupils stay in school and continue their education. Fortunately, this has not been lost on the local partners, particularly the LGUs, some of whom have implemented measures to ensure that the program will continue even without the Foundation’s funding support.

The Foundation also seeks donations from like-minded individuals, and has donation coinbanks in all JFC stores, both here and abroad. In 2009, coinbanks in more than 1,000 JFC stores all over the Philippines raised funds to help support close to 240 public schools and feed more than 8,000 pupils for school year 2010-2011, bringing renewed hope to educators and parents in the areas touched by BLT.

“BLT improved our pupils’ nutritional status and taught parents, teachers and other partners the priceless values of cooperation and discipline. Through BLT, we came to realize the significance of community participation and ownership in ensuring the successful implementation of any school-based undertaking,” shares Dolorosa de Castro, Principal of Canlubang Central School in Canlubang, Laguna.

“I’ve always told my son how lucky he is that there is a BLT program. There was no program like this when I was in grade school. That is why I always find time once or twice a week to help out in his school’s feeding activities,” adds Arlyn Sistona, a parent from Tipanoy Elementary School in Iligan City.




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