The National School Nutrition Policy is at its earliest stage of implementation but when fully introduced will address various issues related to health, nutrition and the holistic development of students.
This was underscored by Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney, as she addressed a service to mark the start of Education Month 2022, at Mount of Praise Wesleyan Holiness Church in Tudor Bridge, St. Michael, on Monday.
She noted the policy would speak to the serious commitment which the Ministry has towards ensuring students at nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary have affordable access to nutritious and tasty meals which can positively influence their quality of life and learning as well as their physical activities.
Pointing out that its formulation was the result of several partnerships, Ms. McConney disclosed that parents and several strategic partners had been invited to join in the fight to promote healthier eating habits and exercise among students.
This, she stated, was especially done given the level of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart conditions, asthma and high blood pressure, that have presented over the last several years, in more than 83 per cent of deaths in Barbados.
The Education Minister said survey data on adolescents in Barbados have determined that 30 per cent, or close to one of every three of our children, between the ages of 13 and 15 years, are either overweight or obese.
Pointing out that this was the reality facing the island, she stressed the need to change dietary quality, sedentary behaviours, and engage in more physical activities.
“Our National School Nutrition Policy was therefore developed in recognition of the need for us to have nutritional standards with a framework which could guide Government’s supervision of school meals and other offerings of meals by canteens and other concessionaires,” she said. She also emphasised the importance of vendors to the success of the policy and curbing the percentage of Barbadians who die from NCDs.
“Those who run concessions in our schools, those who operate canteens, those who are our vendors in and around the premises of our schools, we want you to join us in that effort,” said Ms. McConney, as she urged all in attendance to be strict guardians of health and firm craftsmen of the wellness environment in schools.
The Minister recommended that consideration be given to substitutions such as baked or grilled chicken, and sweet potato fries instead of foods saturated in oil.
She also noted that the Ministry would be ensuring that school environments become more conducive to physical activities by students, by placing various tennis/road tennis courts around campuses and encouraging more student and parent engagements in relation to food choices and physical activity.
Education Month is being held under the theme: Promoting Quality Education Through Healthy Minds and Bodies. Addressing this theme, Minister McConney said quality education, when aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, considers education that is equitable, inclusive and lifelong.
She pointed out that equitable not only spoke to access to the physical school environment or trending technological tools and good teaching/learning conditions, but also equitable access to knowledge, skills and competencies needed for success.
The Month will be marked by a series of activities to be hosted by the Ministry, schools and institutions across the island.