Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says the Ministry is currently conducting a review of the national school feeding programme, in an effort to improve the nutrition of students, particularly those at the early childhood level.
Rev. Thwaites said the review of the programme will be a gradual process, adding that the results will be announced later during the 2013/14 academic year. “We acknowledge the fact that our little children need better nutrition, in order to be able to become adept learners," he said.
The Minister, who was speaking at a press briefing, held at Jamaica House on July 23, informed that statistics reveal that some 30 per cent of children attend school without breakfast in the mornings.
"Therefore the breakfast programme is to become a priority of our school nutrition programme. We are working with nutrition products and the regions to be able to do this,” he said.
Rev. Thwaites pointed out that nutrition is an essential part of the learning process, and that poor nutrition often affects the learning ability of many youngsters.
"Our children are still prone to a cheese chips and bag juice culture and every indication is that many of them face the day with inadequate calories or the wrong kind of nutrition… and it affects the educational outcomes," he noted.
"We have to take it very seriously, that the proper caloric nutrition of our children is an essential ingredient, not an optional charitable extra," the Minister added.
Rev. Thwaites said he is also concerned about the kinds of foods and levels of imported foods that are being fed to students under the school feeding programme in some schools.
"You go into strong agricultural producing areas and the children are being fed with stuff that supports the farmers of the United States, France and New Zealand. We have to gradually move away from this," he emphasised.
In the meantime, Mr. Thwaites said for this coming year, the school feeding programme and Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) grants will be uploaded to school’s accounts in the third week of September. Also, the delivery of commodities will begin in the first week of the month.