KINGSTON, Sept. 10 (JIS): Over 300,000 students are expected to benefit from an integrated school feeding project, to be implemented by the Government. Titled: ‘Strengthening of School Feeding Programmes in the Framework of Latin America and the Caribbean without Hunger 2025 Initiative’, the project involves collaboration among the Ministries of Health; Agriculture and Fisheries; and Education.
It aims to strengthen the Government’s existing school feeding programme by, among other things: ensuring adequate nutrition for students through increased access to affordable nutritious, safe, and quality foods in schools; and establishing and maintaining a comprehensive school feeding national policy, plan, and legislation.
This integrated school feeding project model has recorded significant success in Brazil, where it has been undertaken over the past 50 years. Brazil’s government, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are partnering with Jamaica to implement the initiative, for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) formalizing the arrangement, is to be signed by the major stakeholders.
At the launch on Tuesday (September 9), at the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s (PIOJ) New Kingston offices, Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said its implementation will ensure that children, particularly at the early childhood level, have access to adequate nutritious meals each day, thereby fortifying their development.
“We know that in that first 1,000 days (of a child’s life), and beyond, to perhaps grade eight, is the time of brain formation, or personality development, when nutrition plays a tremendously important role,” he said.
He stated that the “knowledge… of the Brazil model of school feeding will be of inestimable opportunity for us in Jamaica. This is exactly the kind of cooperation we need for Jamaica, and I trust that the information that will be purveyed, will not only be a fillip to the local economy, but, also, be a tremendous strength to the process of education.”
In his remarks, Acting Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said the initiative is integral to “our holistic drive for the National Food Security and Nutrition Programme.”
“If we wish to have a nation that is healthy, then we must ensure that our young children are properly fed and, from the earliest stages, be involved in pursuing a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, our educational, health, and agricultural policies and programmes must be crafted and implemented in such a way as to enhance convergence and collaboration to ensure the best outcomes,” he stated.
“It is for this reason that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is fully committed to ensuring the supply of more nutritious and locally grown foods throughout the nation, specifically in the school feeding programme,” Mr. Kellier assured.
Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, gave the Ministry’s commitment to playing its part to achieve the goals that have been outlined in the (project) MoU.”
In his remarks, FAO’s representatives to Jamaica, Belize, and the Bahamas,
Dr. Jerome Thomas, said that school feeding programmes are important in promoting food and nutrition security in countries where they exist.
“They also impact on the implementation of public policies for the achievement of the right to food. For these reasons, school feeding programmes are, therefore, recommended as one of the major strategies for addressing long-term sustainable development,” he added.
PIOJ Director General, Colin Bullock, said the project represents an important partnership between regional governments and the Government of Brazil, supported by the FAO, while Charge d’Affaires at the Brazilian Embassy in Jamaica, Alfonso Nery, said his Government welcomes the opportunity to share the key components of its school feeding programme with Jamaica.
Key among the project’s initial engagements is a two-day workshop, being conducted by visiting Brazilian school feeding experts, for 45 participants from several government ministries, departments, and agencies, at the PIOJ, which commenced on September 8.
The workshop’s participants also include representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia, where similar programmes are slated for implementation.
Following the workshop, the participants will receive additional training, which will run until December 16.
Brazil boasts one of the world’s most successful school feeding programmes in the world. Managed by the National Fund for Educational Development (FNDE), Brazil’s programme currently provides nutritious food to more than 45 million children across the South American nation, through integrated public policy development and implementation with other government sectors.
Brazil’s involvement in Jamaica’s project forms part of the Government’s commitment to South-South cooperation, particularly with Caribbean countries.