Thanks to the generous donations of marketmanila.com readers, family and friends, we have collected enough funds for an additional 8,000 hot meals for undernourished school children at the Taguig Elementary School. While some of these children and families were seriously affected by the recent floods, not all of them are “under water” so to speak. But the massive dislocation of hundreds of thousands of people, the loss of income, the rising prices of produce due to storms up North, all mean that these kids, many of them more than 30% below their normal body weights, have eaten less over the past couple of weeks, and worse, with schools closed for over a week, even our supplementary feeding could not continue. But classes came back on stream last Wednesday and we have expanded the capacity to 2-3 times the number of meals we used to provide. Now, we will be able to do some 600-800 meals a week. And I was at the school several days last week to ensure that the kids were getting the meals you all have sponsored for them…
The school has a new dedicated feeding room (built over the summer) after two years of sponsored feeding programs from marketmanila and other donors, but it can only take 40 kids at any one time. So the tables are already set and food on plates, before the kids come in shifts, and eat in less than ten minutes! At this meal, lunch included rice, a ground pork, potato and carrot viand with tomato sauce, and 1/4th of a fuji apple. For the kids who wish for more, seconds are often allowed. The water is bottled. And the meal costs roughly PHP20-25 per person.
I cannot properly describe to you how it feels to observe the kids having their lunch. I am at once grateful I/we are all able to help, but feel so depressingly overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems these kids face in the years ahead. At this public school alone, they have some 8,000 grade school students enrolled in three different shifts, and the school premises has a lot area of perhaps 3,000 meters squared at most. Kids are in classes with up to 60 kids each, and the poor teachers are worked to the bone. Some 1,500-2,000 of the kids in this school are considered seriously undernourished. Now please tell me how they are supposed to learn anything when they are hungry? Arrgh, it has been a tough week. But imagine what it must be like for these kids? Every single day?
I knew the feeding room had a maximum capacity of meals it could deliver but I wanted to ramp up supplementary feeding in the first few days after school came back into session, so I asked the school if it was okay to bring an additional 100 boxed meals/snacks and they immediately agreed. One teacher went around to the classrooms and tried to gauge how many kids were extremely hungry or hadn’t eaten properly in the last few days, and within minutes they had a list of 100 kids. Using styrofoam boxes, an environmental nightmare, I know, but less than 1,000 of the total 70,000 meals marketmanila.com has facilitated will be delivered in this way, we packed 100+ additional meals in our home kitchen.
We cook a lot in our household, but rarely for 100+ people at a time. Seven or eight kilos of spaghetti feels like 12 kilos when it is cooked, and with the beef, onions, carrots, and Filipino style sweet tomato sauce, the food must have weighed in at 18+ kilos, requiring a bit of muscle to mix! But all hands were on deck, and the entire crew chipped in by prepping, cooking, mixing, packing and delivering the meals. I brought most of them to the school to see who was going to eat the meals we had cooked.
In the days ahead we hope to make meals/snacks of pancit or other rice/viand combinations. When we got to the school, the kids were quickly lined up and I was concerned that there were far more than 100 kids in line. Once we finished all the portions of spaghetti, the remaining kids were just added to the normal feeding program in the feeding room…
These kids have no idea who I am, other than this tall middle-aged man who comes to help with the feeding program, and neither do they know any of you, the generous donors that make the meals possible. But I can tell you they really do appreciate your help. This is a good thing. Period.
In a related note, the Teen, along with three schoolmates, have raised an impressive sum for the flood victims as well. They will decide where to forward the funds, but on their own, the four have raised another 2,000 meals equivalent of assistance. I am extremely proud of their independent efforts to help.
Thank you again to all of you who have sent assistance to this additional feeding effort. And a special thank you to Ted and Bettyq for consolidating donations in the U.S. and Canada. Just when waters are receding in Manila, Pangasinan and provinces up North are several meters under the latest flood waters.
Several photos in this post taken by AT, one of the crew.