The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training is reviewing the School Meals/Food and Nutrition Policy for private and public primary and secondary schools to offer healthier and more “appetizing” options for students.
Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw, made the disclosure yesterday during the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados’ mass media launch of the model schools initiative, which is part of its Childhood Obesity Prevention campaign dubbed Switch It Up.
Six schools, The St. Michael School, Alexandra School, Reynold Weekes Primary, Christ Church Foundation School, The Rock Christian School and Queen’s College, became no sugar zones from Tuesday, October 1.
“We have started the process of looking at the school meals policy in relation to nutrition because that obviously is something that from our preliminary discussions, has not really been reviewed over the years.
“I encounter a number of children who complain about the school meals service sometimes; they are not satisfied with the type of food. And I think the time has now come for us to be able to evaluate what we are giving to students to be able to look at ways we can prepare meals in a more exciting way. We are dealing with a lot of issues in relation to what children eat at home and then what we are saying to them that they must come to school and eat,” Ms. Bradshaw explained.
While lauding the Heart & Stroke Foundation for its training of vendors and school canteen operators, the Education Minister said government needed to create a balance between entrepreneurial activity among vendors and ensuring there were healthy school environments.
She said the draft food and nutrition policy framework would focus on the sale of dishes prepared by canteen concessionaires; serving sizes sold to students and the types of snacks sold by vendors.
Ms. Bradshaw contended that persons should not view the draft framework as the demise of vendors but as a “prime opportunity” for Barbadians to take entrepreneurship to a different level.
“But in fact, it is an opportunity for you to lead the charge with us to be able to tailor a number of the meals as well as the drinks and to be part of the change that we would all wish to see….
“The policy also addresses the canteen concessionaires’ and vendors’ adherence to the establishment of the hygiene practices, which is equally important. And, secondly, the guidelines for canteen concessionaires, the draft document is currently being reviewed and we should in short order be able to finalize the document,” the Education Minister surmised.
She pointed out that the Ministry would be moving expeditiously to implement the changes needed to create healthy schools. She said her conversations with school-aged children about what they would like to see on the school meals menu were quite concerning.
“…it ranged from fried chicken to chips to pigtails. It was quite alarming because I wasn’t hearing salads, I wasn’t hearing sweet potato pies. I wasn’t hearing any of these things…. But again, if we are to reverse what has been done, we are going to have to work together with all of the stakeholders to have better meal choices within our various institutions,” she contended.
Minister Bradshaw said the Ministry of Education would be staging a food and nutrition quiz, with an emphasis on Non-Communicable Diseases, for secondary school students in term two of this school year.
It is expected to test students’ knowledge on healthy foods in a fun and innovative way. She added that the Ministry would also be creating a recipe book with healthy food options to be used by canteen operators.