ISAAC CHEUNG is just one of those representing the young work force of Mondelez Philippines Inc. (MPI), the local business of the American multinational food maker behind the Oreo brand. He has also found joy in work through MPI’s Joy Schools Program.
“Actually Joy Schools is a company event,” Ateneo de Manila University alumnus Cheung told the BusinessMirror. According to Cheung, Joy Schools is part of MPI’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and features a feeding component.
“And we monitor the nutrition of kids throughout the year,” he said, adding that what makes the program good is that it’s not a one-time event.
“It’s measurable in terms of incidence of malnutrition throughout the year,” the 23-year-old Cheung said. “It’s sustainable in that way.”
Joy Schools is a nutrition program of MPI, manufacturer of products under the iconic brands Eden Cheese, Cheez Whiz, Oreo, Tiger Energy, Tang, Cadbury and Halls, to name a few.
Joy Schools is focused on hunger, malnutrition and education. The program offers access to fresh food, where 300 severely undernourished children benefit from a nine-month daily feeding, among others.
Also included is nutrition education through MPI’s partnership with the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines Inc. Employees like Cheung are also tapped to teach children and improve their nutrition habit.
UNDER MPI’s Graduate Trainee (GT) program, fresh graduates like Cheung, a graduate of BS Management, are hired and trained for 18 months to be part of the company.
He said the training is part of MPI’s mission goals: to grow people, grow business and grow impact.
“So Joy Schools fall under grow our impact in the community,” Cheung told the BusinessMirror.
For Cheung, participating in the Joy Schools Program is part of his personal goals, adding that “It is important to live life to the fullest and with empathy for the people.”
“It is also a great way for the company to give back. It’s a good way to take a break from work,” Cheung said. He explained that the GT program offers several advantages.
We experience different “functions within the company,” he said. “Last time we were in sales; currently, we’re with [the] HR [human resource] and Finance [department],” the 23-year-old Dexter Villarosa said.
Villarosa, a graduate of BS Chemical Engineering in Ateneo de Davao, said he values integrity; that’s why he has always been a volunteer and will continue to be a volunteer.
He noted that people have high expectations in every JSP.
“Every Joy Schools event we try to improve from run to run,” Villarosa said. “As much as possible, we try to veer away from the usual feeding program” where it’s just distribution of food.
“Last time, we had active play; Filipino games. Now we’re going back to storytelling days with the children,” Villarosa said. “It’s good that in every Joy Schools, we expect something new: may pasabog!”
FOR Jerome Talampas, a Chemical Engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines, continuing engagement with the Joy Schools boosts his pride as an MPI employee.
“JSP has always been fun. It’s a good activity for us to bond as a company, as well as to bond with the community,” Talampas told the BusinessMirror. “Mondelez is all about impacting communities, our people. It changes us, it allows us to do good to the communities and it impacts them, as well.”
The 24-year-old Talampas believes that one should trust the process and the results will follow. That is why apart from being a JSP volunteer, he said he wants to explore volunteering in animal shelters, if given the chance.
Ditto for Neil Christian Abanador, a Business Administration graduate also of UP. He said volunteering for Joy Schools gives him an opportunity to make children happy.
MPI Corporate and Government Affairs Head Shanahan Chua commended efforts and ideas of these young workers as “they own what they are doing.”
“This is our way to give back to the employees for a day or half a day that they can really enjoy and reach out to help the communities. It’s really a volunteer program,” Chua added. “In all these activities, we give them the idea [but they are the ones who] come up [with] the activities. They actually own what they are doing. Two more groups in Parañaque, they are doing the same thing. They are the ones who crafted the activity.”
Chua considers the JSP as more than CSR, adding that “what we’re doing is really integrated into the business structure.”
“So what we’re doing is part of culture-building for the people. What we’re really doing right now is working with the communities, with the schools, providing nutrition, education and active play,” he explained. “Part of that is also the engagement of the employees, kasi siyempre we want to bring them out of the office, we want them to connect with the communities. It’s not all about work.”
Chua personally believes in the program and that nutrition really helps the children.
“Even if we are a snacks company, it should not stop us from addressing the nutritional needs of the children,” he said. Chua added that as part of their strict policy on marketing, they focus on nutrition.
“This is what the company stands for: focus on the basic, on the right nutrition before you even think about eating something else. Right, like snacks,” Chua told the BusinessMirror. “What we are now, our vision and purposes [that] snacking made right. It’s really about the responsibility of us being a snacking company to really address, at least among Mondelez Philippines, the fundamental needs first before we even think about providing the snacks.”
THE JSP, which started in April 2013, already adopted 16 schools and some 4,500 students. The program is in partnership with the Department of Education to help the company choose schools with the highest number of undernourished children, and recently partnered with Southeast Asia Public Health Network and locally with the NFPI to come to schools and teach nutrition education component with the parents.
“This helped us upscale our program this year,” according to Chua.
“If you look at the cumulative results, what we’re seeing is, since we’ve been running this program on a year-on-year basis, an improvement from line of sevens in the grade part average to 80 to 84; so [their grades are getting higher],” he said. “I guess if you look at the results, what’s driving that is because they’re more attentive, they are attending classes.”
Chua said the company is seeing an improvement in the attendance from 92 percent to 93 percent.
“Those improvements also showed because hindi sila matamlay, they are busog [they’re not indisposed because they’re full]; so they listen and they are in class,” he explained. “In that sense, we see that the program is successful; how we are structuring the program really helps those at least 100 of the most severely undernourished children. What we’re seeing in the near future is rolling this out in more schools and also in other countries.”