Regional Policy Forum: From Farms to Schools: Towards Sustainable and Inclusive School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in Southeast Asia

  • 24–25 April 2023
  • Crimson Hotel, Alabang, Muntinlupa City, Philippines, and via Zoom
Regional Policy Forum: From Farms to Schools: Towards Sustainable and Inclusive School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in Southeast Asia

Background and Rationale

State of Food and Nutrition Security in Southeast Asia

Everyone has the right to nutritious, safe, and affordable food. Children who are well-nourished grow and develop to their full potential, while adults become healthier, more productive, and capable. This, coupled with quality nutrition care, brings about benefits that can be carried across generations. Good nutrition can develop prosperous families, fuel a productive workforce, and drive powerful economies (ASEAN, 2022).

Poor nutrition, on the other hand, can result to devastating and often lifelong consequences. Aside from threats to survival, children can suffer from delayed cognitive and motor development, eventually resulting to poor academic and work capacity, reproduction, and overall health. These, in turn, could hinder economic development and contribute to the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition (ASEAN, 2022).

Yet despite such detrimental effects of poor nutrition, countries across Southeast Asia continue to suffer from all forms of malnutrition – undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight an obesity, and their associated non-communicable diseases (NDCs), threatening both national social and economic well-being. Recent regional estimates for malnutrition indicated slow progress for the ASEAN Member States (AMS) in terms of meeting its 2025 global nutrition targets. A significant number of children starts life at a disadvantage, suffering from moderate to high rates of stunting, wasting, and overweight in most of the member states (ASEAN, 2022).

As a response to all these, governments across the region are doubling their efforts to adopt policies and programs aimed at improving nutrition across the lifecycle. These policies and programs foster an enabling environment for nutrition and strive to maintain healthy diets and lifestyles even during emergencies and shocks. One focus in the region is improving nutrition in school-aged children. Member states are linking nutrition and education by using schools as a platform to prevent and treat malnutrition in children and adolescents through micronutrient supplementation, physical education, school feeding programs, and school gardens (ASEAN, 2022).

However, to sustain such activities, there is a need to foster an enabling policy environment that would support their continued implementation. Moreover, there is also a need to continuously innovate and evolve the programs and find ways of making them sustainable and inclusive.

Family Farming and the UN Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028)

Family farming is considered as the backbone of global agriculture. It produces 80% of the world's food (in value) making it the most predominant form of food and agricultural production. Family farmers are also seen as key agents of development. Despite being mainly reliant on family labor, family farms carry the pressure of feeding a growing population and ensuring food security and are vital to eradicating poverty, undernourishment, and malnutrition. They also serve environmental, social, and cultural functions, such as protecting the natural environment and biodiversity and maintaining community and cultural heritage (FAO and IFAD 2019).

In December 2017, the United Nations proclaimed 2019-2028 as the Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) primarily aiming to achieve positive change in the global food systems. The implementation of the UNDFF is guided by its Global Action Plan (GAP) which is hinged on seven (7) pillars. One of the pillars, Pillar 5, focuses on improving the socio-economic inclusion, resilience, and wellbeing of family farmers, rural households, and communities. Included in its intended outcomes is the improvement of family farmers' access to markets and diversified income sources. Engagement in institutional procurement programmes and procedures, such as for food assistance and school feeding could facilitate partnerships between family farmers and schools providing them with guaranteed, continuous, and structured demand for their products and services (FAO and IFAD 2019).

Addressing the Nutrition-Education-Development Nexus through Farm-to-School Programs

One initiative that has been gaining significant attention and has been proven successful in developing countries around the world is farm-to-school programs. A Farm-to-School Program (F2SP) "enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by enhancing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education sites" ( With the inclusion of farms, early care, and education, F2SPs can empower children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities (

The implementation of F2SPs also addresses the triple nexus of nutrition, education, and development by: (1) Providing all kids access to nutritious, high-quality, local food so they are ready to learn and grow; (2) Enhancing classroom education through hands-on learning related to food, health, agriculture, and nutrition; and (3). Serving as a significant financial opportunity for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors, and food manufacturers by opening doors to an institutional market worth billions of dollars. F2SPs also benefit everyone by providing opportunities to build family and community engagement. The purchase of food items from local producers and processors for school feeding programs creates new jobs and strengthens the local economy (

For a region whose agriculture sector is mainly composed of small-scale family farmers, F2SPs present them with a valuable opportunity for added income and livelihood by creating new markets for local farms. These new markets allow farms to connect with institutions, such as schools, and establish partnerships. These are well-aligned with the intended outcome of the UNDFF Pillar 5. F2S activities also offer important social benefits by increasing the visibility of farms and drawing attention to their positive contributions to community and environmental health. Moreover, F2S activities also create venue for social interactions which can enhance community cohesion (

Recognizing the opportunities and potential solutions presented by F2SPs in addressing the food and nutrition security issues in the region, SEARCA, in partnership with the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), will organize a regional policy forum to discuss how the existing school-based food and nutrition programs in the region could be further enhanced or strengthened and made more sustainable and inclusive through the involvement and participation of family farmers.


The forum generally aims to discuss potential policy interventions and courses of action to address the nutrition-education-development nexus through the inclusion of family farmers in new and/or existing school-based food and nutrition programs in Southeast Asia.

Specifically, the forum will:

  1. Provide an overview of current state of food and nutrition security in Southeast Asia;
  2. Present ongoing school-based food and nutrition programs being implemented in the region;
  3. Identify and analyze opportunities and challenges in adopting and/or strengthening farm-to-school models for school-based food and nutrition programs in the region; and
  4. Develop policy recommendations, identify courses of action, and explore potential areas for collaboration to engage family farmers in school-based food and nutrition programs to ensure their sustainability and inclusiveness.

Expected Outputs

As a result of the forum, the following outputs are expected to be developed:

  • A general framework for developing new and/or enhanced school-based food and nutrition programs;
  • A detailed documentation of the event (Proceedings Report); and
  • A policy paper discussing the recommendations gathered from the event.

Expected Outcome

Through the forum, participating organizations will be encouraged to development and implement sustainable and inclusive school-based and food nutrition programs backed by strong policies and programs by their respective governments. Possible partnerships and collaborative activities toward addressing food and nutrition security issues in the region through school-based food and nutrition programs are also expected to be explored.

Target Participants and Resource Persons

The forum targets to gather representatives from the following:

  • Ministries of education and agriculture in Southeast Asia
  • International/development organizations
  • Academic institutions
  • Farmers' and civil society organizations


  • Day 1: 24 Aril 2023

    8:30–9:00 a.m. Registration
    9:00–9:45 a.m.
    Opening Session
    Welcome Remarks Dr. Glenn Gregorio
    Director, SEARCA
    Opening Messages

    Ms. Ma. Estrella Penunia-Banzuela
    Secretary General, Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA)

    Dr. Margarita Consolacion Ballesteros
    Director, International Cooperation Office, Department of Education (DepEd)

    About the Forum and Introduction of Participants Ms. Bernice Anne De Torres
    Program Specialist, RTLD, SEARCA
    Group Photo
    9:45–10:15 a.m.
    Keynote Presentation
    ASEAN Health Sector Cooperation: Food and Nutrition Security in ASEAN Ms. Lina Rospita
    Programme Coordinator for Nutrition, Health Division, ASEAN Secretariat
    10:15–10:30 a.m. Coffee Break
      SESSION 1. School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in SEA
    10:30–11:30 a.m.
    Overview of School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in Southeast Asia Dr. Maria Antonia Tuazon
    Sr. Nutrition and Food Systems Specialist, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-RAP)
    School Feeding in Asia and the Pacific Mr. Dipayan Bhattacharyya
    Deputy Country Director – Philippines, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
    Open Forum / Q&A
    11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Lunch Break
      SESSION 2. SEAMEO Centers School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in SEA
    1:00–2:00 p.m.
    School Plus Home Gardens Program (S+HGP) Dr. Gerlie Tatlonghari
    Program Head, RTLD, SEARCA
    Pathways and Mechanisms for Collaboration in Scaling the School Plus Home Gardens (S+HG) Model: Stakeholder Identification Dr. Miriam Caryl Carada
    Assistant Professor, College of Public Affairs and Development, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)
    Consultant, SEARCA
    Securing a Nutrition-Conscious Young Generation through School-Based Interventions: The SEAMEO RECFON Nutrition Goes to School Program Experiences Dr. Jesus Fernandez
    Deputy Director for Programs, Regional Center for Food and Nutrition (RECFON)
    Open Forum / Q&A
      SESSION 3. National School-Based Food and Nutrition Policies and Programs in SEA
    2:00–4:00 p.m.
    National School-Based Food and Nutrition Policies and Programs in Thailand Dr. Kitti Sranacharoenpong
    Associate Professor, Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University
    Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Cambodia Mr. Saovorak Nov
    Deputy Director, Department of Policy, Directorate General of Policy and Planning, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport
    Lao PDR's Existing National Policies on School-Based Food and Nutrition Mr. Houmphanh Keo Ounkham
    Acting Director, Inclusive Education Promotion Center Ministry of Education and Sports
    DepEd Integrated Program for School Nutrition Dr. Dexter Galban
    Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Learner Support Services, DepEd
    Panel Discussion Dr. Nur Azura binti Adam
    Deputy Director for Programs, SEARCA
    Open Forum / Q&A
    4:00–4:30 p.m. Wrap Up, Announcements, Refreshments
    6:00 p.m.–onwards Welcome Dinner
  • Day 2: 25 Aril 2023

    8:30–9:00 a.m. Registration
    9:00–9:15 a.m.
    Recap of Day 1 Ms. Rochella Lapitan
    Senior Program Associate, RTLD, SEARCA
      SESSION 4. Farmers' Inclusion in School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in SEA
    9:15–10:30 a.m.
    State of Family Farming in Southeast Asia and the UN Decade of Family Farming Mr. Pierre Ferrand
    Agriculture Officer, FAO-RAP
    Farm-to-School Programs in Southeast Asia: The Case of the Philippines Ms. Mercedes Castillo
    Chief Operating Officer, Philippine Family Farmers' Agriculture Fishery Forestry Cooperatives Federation (AgriCOOPh)
    Open Forum / Q&A
    10:30–10:45 a.m. Coffee Break
      SESSION 4. Farmers' Inclusion in School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in SEA (cont.)
    10:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
    Panel Discussion with Selected Farmers Organizations in SEA

    Mr. Frank Roy Ribo
    Executive Director, Kalipunan ng mga Maliliit na Magniniyog, ng Pilipinas (KAMMPIL)

    Mr. Chhong Sophal
    Program Coordinator, Farmer and Nature Net (FNN)

    Ms. Chintanaphone Keovichith
    Program Coordinator, Lao Farmer Network (LFN)

    Ms. Ma. Elena Rebagay
    Advocacy Manager, APFP/FO4A Program Manager, AFA

    Ms. Irish Baguilat
    Coordinator, Sustainable Agriculture and Women Farmers' Agenda, AFA

    Open Forum / Q&A Moderator:
    Ms. Maripaz Bernice Galang
    Technical Support Consultant, APFP-FO4A-ARISE and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, AFA
    12:00–1:30 p.m. Lunch Break
      SESSION 5. Breakout Session
    1:30–2:45 p.m.
    Mechanics Ms. Carmen Nyhria Rogel
    Consultant, SEARCA
    Towards Sustainable and Inclusive School-Based Food and Nutrition Programs in SEA

    Ms. Carmen Nyhria Rogel
    Ms. Maripaz Bernice Galang

    Ms. Donna Bae Malayang
    Program Associate, RTLD, SEARCA
    Ms. Juneliza Chiara Pandela
    Business Development Officer, AFA

      SESSION 6. Plenary
    2:45–3:30 p.m.
    Presentation of Outputs Moderator:
    Mr. Jerome Cayton Barradas
    Project Coordinator II, RTLD, SEARCA
    3:30–4:00 p.m.
    Closing Session
    Synthesis and Way Forward (15 mins) Dr. Gerlie Tatlonghari
    Closing Messages (15 mins)

    Datuk Dr. Habibah Abdul Rahim
    Director, SEAMEO Secretariat

    Dr. Nur Azura binti Adam

Masters of Ceremonies:
Ms. Carmen Nyhria Rogel and Mr. Jerome Cayton Barradas