Gulayan sa Paaralan Program sows a path toward food security

With a glaring need to solve malnutrition in the country, GPP vows to provide food and proper nutrition to learners with their school-grown harvests.

Donning their school uniforms, heading to school with enthusiasm, and coming back home to a table full of food–such a lifestyle is what the typical Filipino household strives to provide for their growing children. Yet in many cases, these school-weary students are met with leftovers of food insecurity instead, turning what should have been a basic necessity into a difficult feat.  

School coordinators enjoin students in maintaining a produce garden, planting the seeds for a more sustainable future.

With ever-rising food prices and limited resources, both elementary and secondary schools have not been spared from the prevalent risks of malnutrition. This had become apparent when campus nurses classified a handful of students as underweight. This appalling reality is what kickstarted the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP).

Local public schools across the country cultivate flourishing gardens to uproot traces of food inadequacy Envisioning a “no malnourished learners” community, persistent GPP coordinators and young volunteers go the extra mile to make sure that no student is left behind.

Grown with zeal

From watering crops to pulling out weeds, a lot of care is given to these gulayans or vegetable gardens. But it has also spurred vegetable garden overseers to devise ingenious ways of sustaining their gardens. Through the collective efforts of students and coordinator Earle Ramos of Masbate National Comprehensive High School (MNCHS), their school garden thrives off of organic fertilizers with natural materials such as fermented plant juice and fish amino acids. 

In other areas where access to quality soil is limited, some schools turn to modern gardening methods. The vegetable garden in Francisco E. Barzaga Integrated High School exemplifies this with its hydroponic garden, a “soilless medium” that only requires nutrient-based water as an alternative, as coordinator Mark Anthony Torres explains. 

Though the upkeep of a school’s vegetable gardens turns out to be a fun and creative experience, some students assume it’s physically tedious work. “Iisipin ng bata, ibibilad ka lang sa araw [at] magtatanim ka lang nang magtatanim,” he says. But after getting first-hand experience, the students became more interested and started volunteering for gardening duties. What began with persuading students to engage with the activity reached a point where, as Torres describes, “Ikaw na ‘yung pupuntahan nila.”

(Children think you’re just gonna be exposed to the sun to plant over and over again.) 

(They’ll come to you.)

Torres underscores the importance of letting learners take part in the maintenance of produce gardens to witness the gratifying aspects behind it. Not only through cultivating vegetables, but by initiating feeding programs and charity drives, MNCHS’s GPP has enabled students to embrace volunteerism and take initiative. Ramos joyously talks about the establishment of their school’s organization dedicated to GPP, commending the commitment of its student officers as they have been successful in carrying out activities even without his aid. One of which is the initiative “Feed and Learn,” in which free snacks made from the harvests are prepared in the school canteen and distributed to the students.

The learnings gained from the GPP extend beyond the confines of the vegetable gardens; students become inspired to practice it at home with their families. Being able to grow one’s own crops offers a more sustainable alternative to buying fresh goods in the local market or grocery stores, especially with the inflationary prices of goods. Ramos shares that even at home, one can start growing and harvesting crops with containers rather than spending.

A rocky surface

Although the GPP was cast around the goal of solving nutritional deficiencies within a locality’s school and community, the program still lacks comprehensive measures for effective implementation. 

Insufficient financial funds from the government encumber these teachers from efficiently sustaining both the gardens and community programs under the GPP. Due to the tight budget allotment, teachers like Ramos inevitably shells out personal funds especially during outreach programs, “Kung lalabas kami ng school, siguradong maglalabas din kami ng [sariling] budget,” he laments. 

(If we go outside the school, we definitely need to chip in. This is difficult on our part.)

Additionally, some teachers are not readily equipped with the necessary skills when they take on the GPP coordinatorship. For one, Ramos lacks a background in gardening as he initially teaches carpentry and welding. “‘Yung learnings ko sa gulayan lahat ‘yun nakuha ko sa YouTube,” he shares. Hence, Ramos calls for adequate training for teachers and even students alike to enable them to harness and utilize the full potential of this DepEd program. 

(I learned about gardening through YouTube.)  

Even though teachers and students are now acclimatized to the ins and outs of their vegetable gardens, limited manpower hinders efficiency in maintaining these gardens, as teachers and students have their corresponding duties in school. 

However, Torres shares that despite these challenges, he draws motivation from the individuals they have helped along the way. “[Kapag] nakakapagbigay ka sa iba, makikita mo ‘yung kasiyahan sa kanila. Kahit na [sa] kakaunting gulay, naka-smile sila [kaya] nakakapawi [rin] ng pagod,” he expresses.
Small milestones like this enliven the commitment of these people behind the gulayans to make the soil fertile enough for the GPP to reach its full potential. 

(When you’re able to give back to others, you’ll see them happy. Even with a few vegetables, they will smile, that’s why it also relieves exhaustion.)

Seeds of hope

Just like the plants in the gulayan, increased awareness of food insecurity began to take root in the minds of students and teachers after immersing themselves in the GPP. Ramos describes the shift in perspective of students, “Na-realize [ng mga students] na there are so many children na ‘di nakakakain nang wasto.” Each day they spend maintaining the vegetable garden is another step closer to addressing malnutrition in their schools; but their works of charity magnify the growing need to resolve the country’s health crisis. 

(The students realized that there are so many children who aren’t able to eat properly.)

Hence, as these gardens burgeon toward the fruition of their goals, Ramos hopes that the GPP can reach more students in its quest to aid malnutrition in the country. He opines that the government should also involve private schools and inculcate the importance of gardening among their students. He believes that by expanding the scope of the GPP, more learners will appreciate the value of gardening, especially when the country is simultaneously battling food insecurity and rising food prices. 

Though it may take a while to completely extinguish food insecurity in the country, the GPP tills the land to ensure that Filipino children and adolescents are guaranteed the right to proper nutrition. Planted in these gardens are seeds of hope aiming to benefit future generations of students—so that they can relish in their youth without having to worry whether or not food will be served on the table. 

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

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