When Mondelez Philippines launched its “Joy Schools” program in 2011, they thought the nutrition supplementation project at a neighboring public school was just a one-off thing. But now, not only has the program extended to 10 years, it has also expanded to other parts of the country.
It has also made such a positive impact that the global headquarters of Mondelez International in the United States recognized the pioneering project, which is now also adopted in their other Southeast Asian units, including Taiwan.
The Joy Schools program was designed as a two-year initiative where Mondelez Philippines will provide meals to 100 undernourished children for nine months per academic year in public schools in Parañaque and Quezon City.
Another important element of the program is the engagement of Mondelez Philippines employees, where they share their time to volunteer for the project’s “active play” and “nutrition education” components, allowing them to interact not only with the children, but also with their teachers and parents as well.
Regular health evaluations are performed to monitor the children’s nutritional progress, and also to assess any impact on their performance in school.
“We didn’t know it will reach 10 years. We were just dipping our feet in the water. But we knew we wanted to make an impact,”
Mondelez Philippines country Director Ashish Pisharodi said in recent a virtual media conference. “We were looking for a cause beneficial to the community, as well as inspire and excite colleagues,” he shared.
Pisharodi said they consulted the Department of Education and the Philippine Business for Social Progress before rolling out the program. “And with luck, hours and hours of hard work and toil, we were delighted with how things turned out. It was a positive surprise,” he said. And positive it has truly been. In the 10 years that the program has been running, 5,378 schoolchildren from 19 schools nationwide had directly benefited from Joy Schools, which also indirectly helped 24,739 other individuals.
And because of the meals, and physical and learning activities Joy Schools provided in the past decade, the height and attendance of the child beneficiaries improved by 93 percent, and their weight increased by 92 percent. The children also recorded an average grade of 82 percent.
Mondelez Philippines has so far invested P40 million in the program, while employees logged 10,800 volunteer hours throughout the decade.
Mondelez Philippines country manager Joseph Fabul said it was the company’s communications director, Caitlin Punzalan, and her team who thought of Joy Schools.
“Now the model is used by other markets in Southeast Asia and even Taiwan. They come to us for key learnings,” Fabul shared.
Punzalan said Mondelez Philippines was committed to sustain what Joy Schools has accomplished so far. “In 2020, during a pandemic, we adopted three schools,” she noted.
But when the world ground to a halt because of the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, Mondelez Philippines had to find ways to navigate around numerous restrictions, especially when learning shifted to the virtual platform.
To respond to the changes, Mondelez Philippines modified the Joy Schools dynamics for it to be able to continue to help children, and their families, especially during exceedingly trying circumstances where any assistance counts.
Because the schools were closed, Joy Schools was not able to provide meals to the schoolchildren. To address this, Mondelez Philippines set up stations in depressed communities to hand out food packs containing fresh produce to the families of the child beneficiaries.
Also among the contents are Mondelez products from some of the world’s most well-known brands—Cheez Whiz, Oreo, Tiger energy biscuits, Tang, Toblerone, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Eden cheese.
“It is in our responsiveness that we provide what is needed, after or during the school year. We strive to become relevant to the times,” Punzalan explained.
And to further celebrate Joy Schools’ first decade, she shared that Mondelez Philippines has chosen an “Outstanding Guro Award” recipient to recognize the role educators play in the students’ growth.
Punzalan also renewed Mondelez Philippines’ commitment “to continue what Joy Schools has done” for decades to come. —ARMIN P. ADINA