A few months after we started the feeding program at the Banawa Elementary School in Cebu, I noticed that the school started growing vegetables in the school yard. It was actually amazing how healthy and prolific the vegetables seemed, particularly since they seemed to make a conscious choice of planting these “above ground” either in recycled plastic containers, plastic bags and most intriguingly, bamboo poles. I am sure this agricultural effort was part of their class lessons on nutrition or afterschool activities, but the offshoot of this program, I was told, was that some of the produce was included in the meals for the feeding program, so the kids grew part of their own meals!
The sign up top translates roughly to “School Vegetable Gardens” and these are just some of the things they had in the school yard. Up top were kang kong or water spinach in hanging halved recycled plastic containers. They explained that the ground was very rocky and had hardly any topsoil so they had taken to planting in containers. Above, a really cool use of large bamboo poles, halved and filled with compost and soil… they used this to sprout seeds and even grown other veggies to maturity.
Lots of onions, grown for the leaves that are a favorite flavoring agent in Cebu…
Pechay or chinese style leafy greens that seems to be utterly thriving in plastic bags!
Mild chili peppers on the ground and more kang kong in the background.
Another view of the pechay, with a glimpse of the classrooms in the background. Some 50+ kids often cram into a single classroom, though I have to say the size of the classrooms at this provincial school are far better than those in the Manila schools I have seen.
A hearty pot of soup at one of the feeding program sessions, which includes some leafy greens from the school garden. Compared with many western countries, where gardening is pursued to teach lessons of organic farming, sustainability, etc; unfortunately, in schools like this, it is more an issue of survival. The vast majority of families at this school are at the brink of poverty, and decent meals three times a day are already considered a luxury. While I realize even our feeding efforts are just a tiny drop in the bucket, it is very satisfying to see that the kids themselves grow some of the food they consume. Also, parents volunteer to do all the cooking and serving. So unlike large scale institutional feeding programs (where as much as 40% ends up in administrative costs), 100% of all funds collected do in fact go towards feeding the kids. Again, my sincerest gratitude goes out to all of you who have contributed to the feeding programs or any other similar endeavors in your own neighborhoods.