Breadfruit boost for schools
THOUSANDS of breadfruit trees are to be planted at schools across the island under a project aimed at boosting the school feeding programme, while aiding in reforestation.
Dubbed: 'Trees That Feed in Schools', the project was launched on Friday at Ocho Rios High School, where a number of saplings were handed over.
Approximately 5,000 breadfruit plants will be distributed to schools islandwide over the next six months.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites in a speech delivered by Custos of St Ann Norma Walters, hailed the project, noting that it provides a good example of sustainable development.
"Planting trees is healthy for the environment and is a positive contribution to future generations. In addition, the planting of breadfruit trees, in particular, has the benefit of increasing food supplies for the Jamaican population while promoting national food security," he noted.
He said the project was "very timely", as it coincides with the Ministry's revamped school feeding programme, and its mandate to increase school attendance and enrollment.
Under the programme, over 200,000 students in the early childhood age group began receiving breakfast and lunch free or at a subsidised price at the start of the new school year. This is expected to assist in increasing the ability of children to concentrate, learn, and perform specific tasks.
Stating that the Government has allocated $4 billion toward the school-feeding programme this financial year, Minister Thwaites said local farmers and commodity suppliers will benefit from the expenditure, while providing scope for employment.
"Through the programme, we want to help to stimulate the rural economy," he added.
Regional Director, Ministry of Education Region 3, Maxine Headlam, said that to date, some 60 schools in St Ann have been presented with breadfruit plants, and all the other schools in the parish will receive by the end of the year.
"I love this project, because it's a vision that will outlast even the persons who thought of it, initiated it. For us (at the Ministry of Education) it means food supply for the school feeding programme," she said.
She said the project also represents economic solutions for small communities, as the schools will not be able to absorb all the produce from the trees planted and as such, people from nearby communities, will benefit.
Trees That Feed in Schools involves collaboration among the ministries of Education, and Agriculture and Fisheries; Trees That Feed Foundation; Rotary Club of St Catherine South in Ontario, Canada; and the Rotary Club of Ocho Rios East.
The variety of breadfruit that is being planted under the project is the Ma'afala, which is very high in nutrition. The trees are smaller than other varieties, which makes the fruit easier to reap, and leads to less waste.