The National Nutrition Policy will improve access to nutritional meals and enable healthy eating habits and a physical activity lifestyle among Jamaica’s student population according to Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn.
“If we are able to have a stable and healthy population, then we must ensure that proper nutrition is established within our school environs,” she said. The State Minister was addressing Thursday’s student consultation on the National School Nutrition Policy, at Caenwood Centre in Kingston.
The policy was approved by the Cabinet in May this year and is now in its Green Paper stage where consultations and feedback on proposals are being facilitated. Cuthbert-Flynn indicated that a successful rollout of the policy in primary and secondary institutions across the country will help to reduce cases of obesity among children by 2030.
“The Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey for 2016-2017 shows that 82 per cent of Jamaicans are engaged in non-activity, 16 per cent are engaged in moderate activity and two per cent are engaged in high-level physical activity.
“This study also reflected the common occurrence of obesity among the age of 13 to 15 years old. The Jamaican adolescent was found to consume an unhealthy diet that includes too much sugar, sweetened beverages, fast food and a lack of sufficient vegetable intake. So, without intervention on unhealthy habits from childhood, it continues into adulthood and obese children become obese adults,” Cuthbert-Flynn noted.
The junior minister said the day’s consultation was important, as it allowed students from the various schools to give their insight and recommendations on the policy. She said their input will be critical to shaping the policy and making it more inclusive in the steps to developing healthy habits in the school environment.
For her part, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Maureen Dwyer, said the link between good nutrition and learning cannot be over-emphasised.
“What we are doing here ...is part of a participatory process. We have already spoken to parents and the [Jamaica Manufacturers & Exporters Association] and now we are with you, the chief recipients and users of this policy, because it is a policy about nutrition in schools,” she stated.
The event featured a number of schools from across Jamaica, whose students gave feedback on what shape they would like the policy to take.
Among their recommendations are subsidies for lunch, a weekly water day, having dieticians monitor meals, and having meals for vegetarians and vegans.