On January 24, 2024, the Department of Agriculture-National Dairy Authority (DA-NDA) participated in the launch of the School Mental Health Program and the kick-off of the School-Based Milk Feeding Program (SBFP) for FY 2024 at Esteban Abada Elementary School in Quezon City.

Key Figures at the ceremony included Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte, Pasig City Representative and Basic Education and Culture Chairperson Roman T. Romulo, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, DepEd Assistant Secretary for Operations Dr. Dexter Galban, and DepEd Regional Director Jocelyn Andaya.

In her address, VP-Sec. Duterte highlighted the significance of healthy minds and bodies for effective learning. She acknowledged the vital role schools play in promoting both physical and mental health, expressing their commitment to creating healthier and safer learning environments.

The event, themed “Batang Matatag: Nourishing Mind and Strengthening Bodies,” focused on combating undernutrition in school children. For the school-based feeding programs for FY 2024, the DepEd has doubled the budget to Php 11.7 billion. The department also announced an extension of feeding days from 120 to 220, emphasizing the accessibility of all program components, including hot meals, nutritious food products, and milk.

The DepEd also launched the “Lakas sa Gatas” Campaign, encouraging milk consumption among learners and the patronage of fresh milk from local dairy farmers. VP-Sec. Duterte expressed gratitude to partners, stakeholders, teachers, parents, and education champions for their contribution in making the program successful.

According to the SBFP Evaluation and Feedback Survey, 57% of learners became enthusiastic and energetic after the program, 52% experienced weight gain, and 51% strengthened their immune systems.

NDA Administrator Dr. Gabriel L. Lagamayo supported the program, emphasizing its benefits for local dairy farmers. “The NDA fully supports the SBFP of the DepEd. Our dairy farmers will be happy about the increase in the number of days because this is a major market for them. Most of them have invested in expanding their operations to cater to the milk demand of the program,”said Dr. Lagamayo.

“We believe that a well-nourished mind and body is a key determinant of academic success. Fresh milk consumption offers a scientifically proven avenue to enhance students’ cognitive abilities and academic performance. In line with our vision of increasing milk sufficiency, we also aim to raise a new generation of fresh milk drinkers,” he added.### (Text by Ian Caro E. Agbayani & photo by Danica E. Melegrito, DA-NDA)