School gardens have been promoted in the Philippines as early as the 1970s under various programme titles and priority focus for elementary, secondary, or vocational schools (Salita, 2002; Bauzon, 2009; Inocian and Nuneza, 2015). In 2010, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) promoted the ‘Gulayan sa Paaralan Program’ (GPP) (vegetable gardens in the schools programme) to address malnutrition by promoting vegetable production and consumption among schoolchildren (DepEd, 2007).

Likewise, the DepEd since 1997 has been implementing School-Based Feeding Programs (SBFP) initially to address short-term hunger among elementary school- children. In 2013, the SBFP was refocussed to address also nutrition among public schoolchildren (DepEd, 2013). This was in response to survey results of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Philippines, which revealed that, among 5- to 10-year-old children, 29% were ‘underweight’, while 30% were ‘stunted’ (FNRI, 2013). To further address both under-nutrition and short-term hunger, the DepEd School Health Division covered about 0.53M severely wasted1 (SW) and 1.38M wasted (W) schoolchildren from Kindergarten to Grade 6 (DepEd, 2016). The main goals were to (1) improve the nutritional status of the beneficiaries by at least 70% at the end of the 120-day feeding period, (2) increase classroom attendance by 85%, and (3) improve children’s health and nutritional values and behaviour. This DepEd Memorandum also mandated that'... all schools shall establish and maintain the “Gulayan sa Paaralan Program” as a source of ingredients for the SBFP and shall encourage the families of the beneficiaries to have their own home gardens’. However, effective implementation on the ground varied among schools.

The results of an impact study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) for school year 2013-2014 showed that, among severely wasted children, about 62% attained normal nutritional status at the end of the feeding programme. This falls short of the 70% target due to factors beyond the control of the SBFP implemented, specifically characteristics and practices of beneficiary families, parents and the children themselves. Logistic regression analysis of the 1,081 families sampled indicated that severely wasted children living in rural villages with at least one parent or guardian having some college education, and whose family has access to safe water supply are more likely to improve normal nutritional status.

On the other hand, children who were less likely to gain normal nutritional status were those whose parents said that the SBFP food served was at times inadequate and those severely wasted children residing in rural villages who bring home some of their SBFP food to share with family members (PIDS, 2015; Tabunda et al., 2016). Thus, in the school years from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014, about 38% of the children who remained undernourished during the study became repeat beneficiaries for the next school year’s SBFP. For three consecutive school years (2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015), at least 14% of children under the SBFP were repeat beneficiaries. This means that among the undernourished children who gained normal status after the 120-day school feeding period, about half reverted back to being wasted or severely wasted (PIDS, 2015; Tabunda et al., 2016) due to inadequate and less nutritious food in their homes for the remaining days of the year.

Overview of the School Plus Home Gardens Project (S+HGP)

According to the World Health Organization, children with stunted growth could exhibit reduced cognitive, motor, and language development. Eventually, this translates to long-term consequences of poor school performance, reduced learning capacity, and unachieved overall potential (WHO, 2017).

The Philippines is one of 34 countries with the highest burden of stunting (Zulfiqar et al., 2013) due to malnutrition. Filipino children’s malnutrition is a national concern due to its negative economic impact on the children’s educational attainment (low grades attained and grade-level repetition), on future economic productivity (reduced productivity of stunted workforce and low wage prospects), the workforce population (45% of child mortality due to malnutrition results to complete loss of human resources), and health costs (susceptibility to diarrhoea, respiratory infections, and anaemia) (Lebanan et al., 2016). Another primary concern for the future of food security in the country is the youth’s declining interest in agriculture (FAO-CTA-IFAD, 2014; AFA, 2015).

Thus, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), and the DepEd in Laguna Province (DepEd Laguna) jointly implemented a participatory action research programme (Figure 9.1) to address these problems. This was piloted in six schools in Laguna with specific objectives: namely to increase the diversity and availability of food to meet the nutritional needs of

Operational model of the School-Plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP). Source

FIGURE 9.1 Operational model of the School-Plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP). Source: Calub et al. (2017).

children; to increase the knowledge and improve the skills of students and teachers with regards to food production and nutrition through experiential learning activities; and to reduce food expenses, create savings, and provide an alternative source of income for families to alleviate poverty.

Initially known as the School Gardens Project (SGP), it was later renamed ‘School-Plus-Home Gardens Project’ (S+HGP) to draw attention to the ‘plus’ factors that significantly contributed to the key accomplishments and self-sustaining scaling up of the project. ‘Plus’ refers to the: [1]


The S+HCP promoted the use of the school garden for teaching Math, Science, English, and Home Economics/Technology Livelihood Education. The students enjoyed the walk to the gardens and easily learned the lessons on Math (i.e. counting seedlings, weighing the harvests - great lessons on fractions and decimal points!), Science (observing plant growth and development, comparing plant life cycles, decomposition/composting), and English (identification of local and English names of the plants, writing poems and short paragraphs about observations in the garden).


The S+HCP promoted 'Edible Landscaping', which gave an aesthetic dimension to the school garden. In schools with limited land area, they managed to convert small spaces into pocket gardens using diverse colours and shapes of vegetable plants. Both the big and pocket (small) gardens became attractive and interesting for students. Curious about how the gardens were evolving, the children visited the school gardens often, taking pictures of the growing flowers and fruits as well as their 'selfies'.

Mechanisms for sustaining and scaling up the initial success of the S+HGP were designed in a stepwise process where each of six pilot schools took the lead to pay forward and share their knowledge to at least three other sister schools. In turn, the sister schools also adopted other schools, particularly the small ones in remote areas. From the original six pilot schools in 2016, there is now a growing network of 40 adopted sister schools with corresponding partner parents and LGUs.

This chapter presents the project strategies that contributed to the success in engaging parents in the nutrition of their children and families. Parents’ appreciation of the social, personal, family, economic, and environmental benefits they gained from engaging in school and home gardening, as well as some challenges and issues, is also discussed.

Profile of families of undernourished students

Most of the case study households (n = 45) of the undernourished schoolchildren from the six partner schools have 3-10 members, where 3 out of 4 children are 13 years old or younger (Calub et al., 2017). Parents’ ages ranged from 32 to 58 years. Either one or both parents per household was able to work and earn wages as factory or building construction workers, delivery crew, cooks, bakers, sales staff, security personnel, teacher, house helpers, laundry staff, gardeners, tailor, beauty shop staff, or carpenters.

The household income ranged from about USD 60 to 700 per month with an average of USD 75. To augment this, particularly those in rural villages, some have vegetable gardens, raise pigs, go fishing, and sell clothes, food products, and charcoal. Some households occasionally received remittances from older children or their relatives working in the cities or abroad. Household income was mainly spent for food (74%), transportation (11%), house electricity and water (7%), children’s education (4%), healthcare and medicines (3%), and other items. Most of these families lived in limited spaces (about 57-112 m2) that were either owned or rented, or inherited or were allowed free use by relatives or friends. Almost half of the number of households have access to a nearby vacant lot for gardening. About 33% of the households have existing vegetable gardens; 16% used to have vegetable gardens, but now don’t, while 51% never had a home garden. Of those who never had home gardens, 87% were actually interested to start their home gardens, while 13% were not interested for various reasons (Table 9.1).

About two years after the S+HGP ended, the number of households with established home gardens has doubled. They continued to maintain or expand their home gardens with or without malnourished children in their families.

TABLE 9.1 Home gardening experience of the respondent households

Experience with home gardens

Percentage of respondents

Respondents’ reasons

Currently have home gardens


• Fondness for vegetable gardening was inherited from parents; It is a hobby; they know how

to grow vegetables, so they started a garden; household received planting materials, so they decided to use them.

  • • The family loves eating vegetables.
  • • To encourage their children to eat vegetables.
  • • To generate extra income.

Never had a home garden but interested to have one


  • • Can provide food for the family and generate savings.
  • • Harvests can be sold to neighbours, thus augmenting household income.
  • • To be able to ensure that their food source is clean.
  • • To have a convenient, easily accessible, and almost unlimited source of vegetables.
  • • Husband likes farming.
  • • Household members like to eat vegetables.

Experience with home gardens

Percentage of respondents

Respondents’ reasons

Used to have a home garden but now not anymore


  • • Husband who tends the garden went overseas to work.
  • • The household member who tends the garden passed away.
  • • The family moved to a new house which does not have space for a garden.
  • • The family sold the lot that was once used for vegetable gardening.
  • • They used to sell marketable produce from the garden but decided to shift to a more profitable income-generating activity.

Never had a home garden and not interested to have one


  • • Not interested.
  • • More interested to raise pigs than vegetables.
  • • No time because of household chores or paid work.
  • • No available space for even a small garden.

Source: Calub et al. (2017).

  • [1] project’s success in mobilizing parents to take on the challenge and develop a greater sense of responsibility to be involved in the nutrition of theirchildren—by actively helping tend the school gardens and building theirown home gardens; 2. project’s success in complementing the 120-day SBFP by promoting year-round production of nutritious food coming from both the school and homegardens, particularly during the remaining period of the year that is notcovered by the SBFP; 3. strong collaboration among stakeholders, particularly the local governmentunits’ (LGUs) committed support to the schools and homes—by allocatingfunds for garden inputs, providing capacity-building services, and directlyassigning some personnel to assist teachers in maintaining the school gardensor helping parents establish food gardens in their homes; 4. multiple functions of the school and home gardens as a source of supplemental food, nutrition, and income (see Boxes 9.1 and 9.2 about learning gardensand inspirational pocket landscape); and project’s contribution to stimulatingchildren’s interest in agriculture.
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