Jamaica Producers discounts price of bananas to schools

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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JAMAICA Producers (JP) Group, in support of the Government's mandate of providing healthier meals for students, is offering bananas to schools across the island at a drastically reduced cost of $5 per pound.

This initiative forms part of the JP St Mary Heritage Project, which was launched on Friday at the company's farm in Annotto Bay, St Mary.

In attendance to endorse the project were Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw; Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton; and state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green.

Shaw applauded the JP Group for launching the initiative, saying the heritage project is a step in the right direction and is in line with the Government's mandate of encouraging healthier eating habits on school compounds.

“Five dollars a pound for banana, which is more nutritious than imported flour, is an opportunity schools should embrace for our children. This is a wonderful project, and for a company that has been here for 90 years, I am proud of the leadership that you are providing in this country,” the minister said.

He pointed out that 80 per cent of what the children eat is imported, which basically consists of flour, rice, and bag juice, and costs approximately $5 billion, while bananas grown in Jamaica can be used to make healthier alternatives such as banana porridge, banana bread, and banana muffins.

Green also thanked the company for considering giving support for the Government's initiative of providing healthier alternatives over sugary products in schools.

“You (JP Group) have a number of different calls and you could have decided to do a number of different areas in terms of your social outreach, but you have chosen to contribute to an area which touches on education, health, agriculture and, more importantly, the heritage of Jamaica,” he said.

Green emphasised that the initiative will assist with the School Feeding Programme in a major way.

“I think this is an exceptional project. The reality of you providing one million pounds of banana for a ridiculously low price of $5 per pound really says that: 'This is not about the finances. This is not about making money. This is really about supporting our educational institutions,' and we welcome this project. This is a game-changing move to strengthen our School Feeding Programme,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Tufton said the JP Group's St Mary Heritage Project will help to reduce the obesity levels in schools and enable students to consume healthier alternatives.

“From a health and wellness perspective, it is important to us. Obesity levels within our school population have doubled over the last seven years. The last two surveys that we have done, which are seven years apart, show an increase of 100 per cent in obesity levels in our boys, and almost 70 per cent increase in our girls,” he said.

“This is very concerning to us, because if obesity levels in our schools increase by almost 100 per cent every seven years, then one can imagine where we will be over time in terms of premature illness, premature deaths, impact on productivity [and] impact on development,” the minister said.

The heritage project forms part of JP's initiative of giving back to Jamaica as it prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2019.

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