Hundreds of public elementary school pupils and high school students in six pilot towns in this province have become taller and heavier, thanks to a School Garden Program being implemented jointly by government agencies and a Philippine-hosted Southeast Asian center based here.
Officially named "A Participatory Action Research on School- and Community-based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction, and Sustainable Development," the program is now on its penultimate phase and is expected to be completed this June.
Involved in the program's implementation are the Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the University of the Philippines -Los Baños (UPLB).
Launched last year, the program was supported in its initial phase by the Asian Development Bank and the Thailand-based Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Secretariat. The seeds used in the vegetable production activities were provided by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry-Economic Gardens in Los Baños.
A memorandum of agreement for the implementation of the program was signed by DepEd-Laguna through Schools Division Superintendent Josilyn Solana, SEARCA director Gil Saguiguit Jr. and UPLB chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr.
The accomplishments of the multi-agency project are now being assessed. Initially, the program covered as pilot sites one elementary school each in Alaminos, Cabuyao, Majayjay, Nagcarlan and Pila, and a public high school in the Laguna capital town of Sta. Cruz. The local government units of these municipalities were also harnessed.
Subsequently, 18 more elementary schools in the province were covered as the program was scaled up.
Assessing the achievements and outputs of the activities recently, the program measured the heights and weights of the school children involved in the gardening activities. From the start, the program had used the garden produce in DepEd's School-based Feeding Program.
The results were encouraging as the school children showed progress in terms of height and weight, SEARCA said.
The program has also been developing lesson plans integrating science and education and related fields in the school curricula.