KINGSTON – Government is going ahead with plans to include local produce in the school-feeding programme this school year.
According to Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, the school-feeding programme is currently being revised and a priority factor in its revision is the inclusion of healthy local produce, which he said will not only benefit the students but the farmers as well, and the country by extension.
“Local eggs will be replacing the imported butter oil… and local juice will be introduced in a timely fashion this year through Nutrition Products Limited, rather than the sugar and water which is synthetically coloured,” the minister told last Friday’s back-to-school press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.
Additionally, Thwaites said the local producers of chicken and other livestock have expressed an interest for the use of their produce as the protein content in the school lunch programme, adding that discussion were also taking place with the major banana producers to have ripe fruits available for the children.
“The almost $4 billion overall that we spend largely to support foreign farmers to feed our children inadequately must be more and more progressively turned to the use of local produce to increase aggregate demand, to sustain the local farming community and to nourish our children better,” the minister said.
He said that the school meal is often the only substantive meal that the students receive for the day. “There is evidence to suggest that no less than 30 per cent of our children are coming to school hungry everyday and you will understand how critical that is to learning and deleterious to appropriate behaviour,” he said.
In light of that, the minister said the education ministry along with the agriculture and health ministries were committed to making a resolute start this year, although the revision of the programme will not be completed within a year.
In the meantime, he said 120 schools will benefit from the school-feeding pilot programme, which, along with the support for the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, have been allocated more than $1 billion.
The project, Modernising the School Feeding Programme, will be implemented in region one from September 2013 to July 2014. It is designed to test three options in the production and delivery of quality meals to schools in an efficient and effective manner. (Observer)