The government will continue to implement food programs for children amid the Covid-19 pandemic, an official said.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles, chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger, said the  pandemic led to a review of the government food security and nutrition programs.

“We have to look at our programs from top to bottom, from planning to implementation, because we have to do things different under current conditions,” he at the “Tapatan sa Aristocrat” virtual forum last week.

The task force will look into upgrading the supplemental feeding program in day care centers, particularly additional nutrition food packs, he said.

Aside from hot meals, day care children may be provided with food packs, including vegetable noodles, squash, carrots, rice, and “nutribuns,” he said.

The government also needs to figure out how to safely implement the Department of Education’s school-based feeding program, which targets underfed school children.

Rations for poor households with children may also be considered, as there are about two million malnourished Filipino children, he said.

“In the distribution of rations, [local governments] can prioritize these households through barangay registries or with data from public schools and ensure that these families have adequate and healthy meals for their children,” Nograles said.

He said there was a need to address malnutrition in early childhood to the period before children enter pre-school.

Malnutrition could lead to stunting, or impaired growth and development experienced by children because of poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.

Stunting leads to low educational performance, lost productivity and increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases and even death.

The economic cost of stunting is estimated to be equivalent to 1.5 to  percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Melo M. Acuña