- As a student of Ferris Primary School in Westmoreland, international gospel artiste Kevin Downswell would look forward to a daily snack provided by the school under the National School-Feeding Programme.
- For the young man, who grew up in very humble circumstances, the modest snack was his only sustenance while at school.
- “I was living... in Smithfield – Cabbage Tree to be exact. I had to walk to school and walk back from school. I had to depend on the nutri-bulla and milk – the cherry milk... that was my favourite, but I was a child,” he laughed.
As a student of Ferris Primary School in Westmoreland, international gospel artiste Kevin Downswell would look forward to a daily snack provided by the school under the National School-Feeding Programme.
For the young man, who grew up in very humble circumstances, the modest snack was his only sustenance while at school.
“I was living… in Smithfield – Cabbage Tree to be exact. I had to walk to school and walk back from school. I had to depend on the nutri-bulla and milk – the cherry milk… that was my favourite, but I was a child,” he laughed.
For many vulnerable students across Jamaica, including those on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), the National School-Feeding Programme has become a lifeline.
The goals of the programme are to encourage greater and regularised school attendance, alleviate hunger, enhance the learning capacity of students by providing a meal or snack.
It also aims to educate children about the value of food through nutrition education classes and to encourage them to grow their own food by establishing and supporting school gardens.
The Government recently took a decision to withdraw the popular nutri-bun and provide more nutritious cooked meals to students.
Recently, Restaurants of Jamaica (ROJ), through its KFC Add Hope initiative, presented $7.4 million to Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) to boost the National School-Feeding Programme.
The funds will facilitate the provision of nutritious meals for basic and primary-school children in about 82 schools across the island.
It follows an initial donation of $4.5 million in 2018, when the partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and NPL was formalised.
The partnership resulted in more than 82,000 meals being distributed to 3,500 students at the basic and primary levels within proximity to 35 KFC restaurants islandwide.
Mr. Dunswell, who is an Add Hope Ambassador, lauded the National School-Feeding Programme for supporting poor and vulnerable students in schools.
In welcoming the donation, Minister with oversight for Education, Hon. Karl Samuda, noted that it will ensure that more children attending school are provided with the appropriate meals that will improve their educational outcomes.
“Without nutrition, the children can’t learn. They lose concentration, they fall asleep, and if they don’t have an early breakfast, by 11:00 a.m., whatever you teach them is history. They can’t absorb it and, therefore, they are very challenged,” he pointed out.
He noted that the initiative, which represents good corporate citizenship, will go a far way in advancing the Ministry’s effort to provide greater support to students in need of nutritious meals.
Mr. Samuda said that the Ministry is pursuing an increase in breakfast solutions to schools that will benefit 100,000 children, moving up from 70,000.
He further lauded the work of NPL in ensuring that students have access to nutritious meals. “Continue to do your work in the way that you have been,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marketing Director for ROJ, Tina Matalon, informed that the support provided for this year includes $1.1 million raised through the ‘Goals for Meals’ campaign, through which $600 was donated for every goal scored during the first round of last season’s Manning and DaCosta Cup [football] competitions, of which KFC was a major sponsor.
In addition, KFC customers helped to raise $1.8 million through in-restaurant donations during Child Month and World Food Month in May and October 2019, respectively.
“So, when… you are asked by the cashier in our restaurants ‘do you want to ‘add hope’ to your meal today?’ add that extra $10 [or] $50 and know that it is helping even more students to have even more nutritious meals through the Ministry’s School-Feeding Programme,” she urged.
Ms. Matalon said that investing in the future of Jamaica will continue to be a “very big deal” for the company, noting that the initiative is one of many that will fuel, feed and help Jamaica”.
Chief Executive Officer, NPL, Andrew Narine, for his part, said the entity continues to fulfil its mission by providing meal solutions to designated schoolchildren islandwide, at no cost to the beneficiaries.
He said studies have shown that school-feeding programmes can enhance enrolment and reduce absenteeism.
“Once these children are enrolled, it stimulates learning through avoidance of hunger and enhances cognitive abilities,” he added.
NPL was established in 1973 as an agency of the Ministry of Education, with responsibility for the production and distribution of nutritious meals to schools islandwide through the School-Feeding Programme.