THE Second Quarter 2023 Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showing more Filipinos suffer from involuntary hunger is a validation of the national government’s Food Stamp Program (FSP), which the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently launched in Tondo, Manila as one of the FSP’s pilot areas.
“The SWS findings that more Filipinos suffer from involuntary hunger during the 2nd quarter is a validation that the Marcos administration is on the right track in implementing the Food Stamp Program, with the DSWD as lead agency,” Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said on Friday (Aug. 4) during the Weekend Report livestreamed over DSWD’s Facebook account.
DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian Gatchalian had said that the FSP aims to provide food augmentation to the bottom one million households from Listahanan 3, who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
“The pilot implementation from July to December of 2023 will initially cover 3,000 families. The target beneficiaries are those families whose income does not go beyond P8,000 a month,” the DSWD spokesperson pointed out in the Friday Weekly Report, which is co-anchored by Director IV Aldrine Fermin.
The SWS defines involuntary hunger as “being hungry and not having anything to eat.”
Moderate hunger refers to being involuntarily hungry “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months. Severe hunger refers to a condition that persons go through “often” or “always.”
While involuntary hunger rose by 5 points in the National Capital Region (NCR) and increased by another 2.6 points in areas adjacent to the NCR, the involuntary hunger rate hardly changed in the Visayas, with hunger record decreasing by 5.4 points in Mindanao, according to the SWS survey from June 28 to July 1.
Asst. Secretary Lopez said about one million food-poor families are expected to benefit from the “Walang Gutom 2027 Food Stamp program”, a DSWD flagship program that intends to provide food augmentation to families experiencing involuntary hunger due to extreme poverty.
“The FSP involves providing cash-based assistance in the form of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that will be loaded with specific cash amount for purchasing a select list of commodities from registered local retailers. This aims to empower the poor to let them choose what food they want to eat based on the list provided by DSWD,” Asst. Secretary Lopez explained while stressing that “Strictly no liquor or any alcohol is allowed.”
Ultimately, the Food Stamp Program aims to properly address the gaps and assist households in attaining the recommended energy needs to perform their daily tasks and routines that directly and indirectly contribute to human capitalization and nation building.
The FSP will be conducted in five (5) pilot sites with ‘different geopolitical characteristics.’ These include the selected cities and municipalities in NCR, Caraga Region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The pilot sites are geographically isolated regions, urban poor settings, calamity-stricken areas, and rural poor areas.
“The FSP beneficiaries will be given tap cards which will be loaded with food credits amounting to P3,000 a month. The tap cards could be used by the food-poor families to purchase a select list of food commodities from DSWD-accredited local retailers,” the DSWD spokesperson pointed out.
Asst. Secretary Lopez explained that the tap cards will not be loaded with money but will instead be loaded with food equivalent based on the recommendation of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), which helped craft the program that limits the “baskets of goods” to 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 20 percent fats.
“The program will also be conditional and have a work component. This means that those who will sign up would be required to seek employment in order to continue receiving the FSP benefits,” the DSWD spokesperson said.
Asst. Secretary Lopez also assured that the DSWD will continuously measure and monitor the beneficiaries in the regions that it has identified throughout the implementation of the Food Stamp Program.
“DSWD hopes that through the Food Stamp Program, the country will be able to combat hunger and achieve food security towards the realization of a zero hunger Philippines,” the DSWD official said.