Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) power plant manager Jori Liimatta (right) and General Santos City Medical Association president Dr. Sergio Domantaño Jr., lead the inaugural ceremony of the feeding center donated by SEC to Lozano Elementary School in Brgy. Sinawal. Looking on is Gen. Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

The Alsons Power Group’s Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) which operates the 210mega-watt (MW) SEC baseload coal-fired power plant in Maasim, Sarangani Province, recently inaugurated two feeding centers as part of its initiative to strengthen support for the education sector in the region.

     SEC officials led the groundbreaking for the feeding centers at Shuttle Elementary School in Barangay San Jose, and Lozano Elementary School in Barangay Sinawal in Maasim, Sarangani. The two feeding centers that are situated in depressed areas predominantly populated by Blaan communities can accommodate up to 400 beneficiary students as well as children in nearby communities.  

     Sarangani Energy provided funding for the construction materials while school officials and the local Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) took care of the design and the actual construction.

     Each feeding facility is furnished with chairs and tables for the children, including an open kitchen and pantry for cooking and supply stores.

     “SEC wants to show another way of supporting the communities when it comes to education, that’s why we chose to provide feeding centers to support these schools,” according to Ruben Tungpalan, Corporate Affairs Manager for the Alsons Power Group.

     Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) shows that most kids do not go to school because they cannot afford to have lunch or eat in between classes. Most schools in the area also do not have kitchen facilities and cafeterias. All these resulted in the School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) organized by DepEd.

     “We used to have a problem with children going home during lunch to eat and most of them would not return. Some students would not go to school at all because they do not have their baon. Now they know that we can feed them here,” said Lelita Laguda, former school principal for Lozano Elementary School.

     A beneficiary’s parent also noted how some students suffer from malnutrition which can affect their knowledge retention and understanding.  

     Aside from benefitting students, the project has also made parents form a special bond as they work together in the kitchen, cooking and preparing food for the students. Volunteer-parents, under the supervision of a teacher as the school’s feeding program coordinator, prepare and serve food to the children.

     “Some of us used to just wait for our kids and fetch them, but now many parents volunteer in the kitchen as part of the staff. This means we are directly participating in preparing the food for our children, making sure that they are fed properly,” said Mae Contorno, a parent-volunteer.

     According to Amy Sawo, president of the SBFP team in Brgy. Sinawal, the program also enabled parents to get educated on the importance of preparing healthy meals.

     “It has been our wish to have our own feeding center, and now SEC has made our wish come true,” gratefully remarked SBFP teacher Julia Cagbabanua.