The Government’s 51-year-old School Meals Programme has received a failing grade from an official of the Diabetes Association of Barbados.
Treasurer and fund-raising chairperson of the association, Annette Sandiford, suggested she was not satisfied with the flour-based products and sweet drinks that were being served to the children at lunchtime, given the increase in the number of children here
“On a personal level, I would love to get into the schools or the planning process. As an association I think that needs to be our next step in terms of getting into schools and having some influence with the School Meals Programme,” she said.
Saying that what people ate were habit-forming, Sandiford added: “If you are giving children junk, and I am not saying the school meal is junk, but if they are used to eating breads and cakes and the blue drinks and the green drinks and so on, then that is what they will have [later on in life].
“There are some children who did not understand the principle of freshly cooked food; meat and two vegetables, as we would say where I am from. There needs to be more of that. There needs to be more [vegetables]. The plate model that we recommend, that needs to be a part of the School Meals Programme and I would like to see that happen.”
“There is always room for improvement. Until I see a child walk out with the recommended plate model; the right portion size, the right coverage of vegetables and salad products, then how can I be satisfied?” asked Sandiford.
She was responding to questions from reporters at Tapas restaurant yesterday following the launch of Banks Holdings Limited’s new low calorie soft drinks – Clear – that is expected to lessen sugar intake.
Earlier during the launch Sandiford said: “Here in Barbados the prevalence of diabetes in adults is about 15 per cent of the adult population; around 30,000 people plus with an ever-increasing number of children. This ranks us amongst the highest in the Americas, and diabetes here represents about 24 per cent of our health costs here in Barbados. Therefore all emphasis has to be on prevention”.
She agreed there was a lot of talk surrounding the issue of diabetes and healthy lifestyle but people were still not taking heed. She said therefore, it was critical that the practice begin from a young age.
“I believe that is where we have to start; in the schools with the children and I think the strategy now has to be educate the child and they will educate the parents,” she said.
She also agreed that policies should be formulated to limit the amount of salt used in the preparation of food at eating establishments across the island.
“The biggest thing I would like to see the Government do is to support the kind of things that are happening today, where low sugar and low salt products are readily accessible and available to all. Sometimes it is quite embarrassing because you will say to somebody ‘eat more healthy’ and you find the cost for doing that is exorbitant,” added Sandiford.
She recommended continuous education on the topic with more emphasis on what people should do instead of what not to do.