Students' consumption of local products benefit the environment

Petre Williams-Raynor

Wednesday, September 26, 2012    

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RECENT Government efforts to get students to consume local products augurs well for the environment and in particular Jamaica's efforts to deal with any fallout from climate change.

So says Jeffrey Spooner, one of Jamaica's senior climate negotiators and head of the Meteorological Service.

"It is a laudable effort and it will help to reduce our carbon footprint. That is a win-win situation for us, separate and apart from the fact that we will be supplying employment for our locals. So it is an initiative that is laudable," he said.

Spooner was referencing the collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Education to have students in the public school system eat local — the full roll-out of which is to begin at the start of the next school term in January.

"By January, we will be on our way. We will start the process because by then we would have identified where [in which schools] because it is not going to be everywhere. In the meanwhile, we have been putting teams in place. We are looking at groups where we have a cluster of schools and we could get people involved in making juices," Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke told Environment Watch on Monday.

"The other thing is we have been working with the egg farmers to introduce liquid eggs instead of the imported butter fat to make the nutribuns. We are [also] working with [the ministry of] education to see how we could use sweet potato muffins for the breakfast programme," he added.

Currently, Clarke said, they supply "34,000 sachets of fruit drink to some schools".

"We started that in January and we expect to increase that to 150,000 by the end of this year. The juice is provided by the plant in St Elizabeth — Jamaica Exotic Flavours & Essences. Then it is taken to the entity that does the nutribuns (Nutrition Products Limited) to do the sacheting and so forth," the minister explained.

As schools purchase more locally grown produce and products, Jamaica should, at least in theory, cut back on its carbon footprint, which is the measure of how domestic and social activities impact the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced.

The amount of greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which fuel global warming and ultimately climate change — produced is determined, in large part, by human action, and in particular, the use of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil.

With the consumption of locally grown produce — and particularly if they are grown in an environmentally friendly way — Jamaica cuts back on its carbon footprint, courtesy of a reduction in travel time and the amount of energy it would take to import goods.

It is against this background that Spooner has implored schools to support the effort.

"I would really encourage all schools to come on board," he said. "I am also happy that it is a phased operation where we will then have a chance to learn from what has happened before," he said.

Clarke has himself alluded to the need to pursue the effort, citing the benefits to the agriculture sector.

"I must, at the outset, tell you that it is going to cost a little more because the imported stuff would probably be a little cheaper. But we have to weigh that against our own future. What we need to do is really work toward improving our productivity and it can only happen when we are producing," he said.

"Although Jamaica is fairly secure in terms of food security, we import 60 per cent of the carbohydrates that we use and 90 per cent of the grains that we use. So, although we say we are reasonably food secure, we are really importing quite a bit," Clarke added.



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