Over 1,000 responses have so far been received in relation to Government’s new initiative – the Summer Nutrition Programme (SUN Programme) – that aims to feed children while on their summer vacation, starting from Monday, July 25.
This was divulged today by Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer Bradshaw, as she spoke to moderator, Barry Wilkinson, on VOB’s “Down To Brass Tacks” programme.
“People are really taking this up. And, I think it’s quite good for our children and we call it “Lunch and Learn” session because it is time for the children to learn and it’s time for us as a Ministry to learn from them also with regards to our meals; see how we can make them more exciting, more interesting, while making them nutritious.
“It is about catering to our students not only on the educational level but catering to the whole child. And, once it is something that is about developing the children, physically, positively, attitudinally, we are fully on board,” remarked Dr. Archer Bradshaw, as she outlined the format for the initiative, first mentioned by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley during an address to the nation last evening. It will be administered by the School Meals Department of the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training.
While also acknowledging that students would “have their lunches at noon with activities to follow for an hour”, she pointed out that it was opened to all school-aged children and would allow them to not only eat but learn something during the activities session.
Parent/guardians were advised to go online and check their child’s Student Inbox; view the electronic form, and fill it out. “We have shared the Google Form for registration with the principals and the ITCs (Information Technology Coordinators) and we ask the ITCs to share the information with their students in the Student’s Inbox,” said Dr. Archer-Bradshaw.
Adding that the initiative would also present an opportunity for children to try the Ministry’s new School Meals menu, she said: “We know that we have a lot of work to do in making the school meals even better for our students. The manager of the School Meals Department and her team, they have been working exceedingly hard to come up with new menus and this would be an exciting opportunity for our children to try those menus….
“The Ministry is trying two new menus. We are going to have a new kind of macaroni pie, a healthier alternative…. I remember the manager talking about replacing some of the mince beef with peas because we want to make things even more healthy in going forward, for our children. And, what better way for the children to tell us, during the summer; to rate the meal and let us know exactly how they feel about them. If they like them; if they are too salty; if they are too sweet; if they are not colourful enough; we want to hear from the children, as well.”
According to Dr. Archer-Bradshaw, the Ministry would be utilising various sites across the island for the meal programme but would first be guided by a survey, utilising the information drawn from the registration forms, which are expected to be completed by parents by Monday, July 18.
“That’s the reason it will close on Monday, July 18. We are asking all parents if you are registering your children, please register by Monday evening. That way we will be able to see where the children are located and be able to identify the centres closest to where they are located. We don’t want the children to have any hindrances when it comes to obtaining the meals from the various centres. So it is then that the centres would be identified,” she explained
However, while the Chief noted that parents/guardians could also acquire a physical form from principals who would print them and allow them to be completed and submitted at the school, she stressed the preference was for utilising the electronic form which also would be facilitated.
“If they wish, they can come to the Ministry of Education; we have a laptop set up there. They can complete electronically there as well. So, there should be no hindrance there as well…. Go to the school and get a form from the principal and we will get the information from there” she assured.
The Chief Education Officer also noted that the Ministry was aware that not every child would want to take advantage of the programme.
She acknowledged there would be those who are “most in need” that might be the ones accessing it, or there might be children who just might be interested in the lunch and learn activities.
Nonetheless, she stressed: “We are making sure it is open to everyone. We are not just looking at the vulnerable children; we are looking at children as a whole who want to take advantage of the programme. We are not discriminating at all.”
Parents/guardians were also assured that there will be a monitoring of the new programme. Dr. Archer-Bradshaw, in giving this commitment to the public, stated: “One of the things we are moving towards even more so is evidence-based decision-making. And, we have a research officer who is currently developing the evaluation form so that our children can rate the lunches, … give us their feed-back.
“We will have at our centres, as well, “Give Back” students from The University of the West Indies; BCC and other places because we are all in this together. So they can help to monitor the children as well and where possible we draw in the school monitors, so they can lend assistance with regard to monitoring the children. But at the end of the day, we want to be able to make evidence-based decisions with regard to the type of meals that we implement as part of the School Meals menu.”