- The Ministry has embarked on several activities aimed at supporting the Government’s overall goal of improving the nation’s nutritional needs and provisions.
- These include developing policies and guidelines, and having dialogue with food industry stakeholders.
- Cabinet has already approved the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy, which addresses the need to ensure proper nutrition for infants and young children.
Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, says the Ministry has embarked on several activities aimed at supporting the Government’s overall goal of improving the nation’s nutritional needs and provisions.
These, he says, include developing policies and guidelines, and having dialogue with food industry stakeholders.
Speaking at the launch of the Government’s Inter-Ministerial Integrated School Feeding Programme, at the Planning Institute of Jamaica, New Kingston, on
September 9, Dr. Ferguson said Cabinet has already approved the National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy, which addresses the need to ensure proper nutrition for infants and young children, “to set a solid foundation for their development.”
“We are already working with the Ministry of Education, through the School Health Enhancement Committee, which is co-chaired by both Ministries, with the goal of improving the health and nutrition environment in our nation’s schools,” he noted.
In addition, the Minister said food-based dietary guidelines were developed, which have been pre-tested and are currently being analyzed.
“These will guide citizens to create proper and balanced meals to improve overall health. The National Food and Nutrition Security Policy was also done in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and has been fully debated in Parliament,” he informed.
Dr. Ferguson said he has also met with food industry stakeholders to discuss matters relating to product labeling, to provide information such as caloric values, portion sizes, and nutritional values, “in order to allow consumers to make informed choices.”
The Minister pointed out that the process of improvement, focusing on the population, is being undertaken, “especially since we have a major challenge where obesity is concerned.”
He informed that a 2008 study conducted by American Professor of Public Health Sciences, Dr. Ramon Durazo-Arvizu, on obesity prevalence in Jamaica, Nigeria, and the United States, showed weight gain being four times higher, among locals, than in the other two countries.
He said the study concludes that obesity poses a serious threat to Jamaica’s health and economy. In this regard, he said unless effective prevention and control measures are taken, the society will bear high “direct” costs, including those for treatment services and “indirect” expenses associated with loss of productivity.
“There has to be more recognition of what we are putting into our bodies. The Ministry (of Health) commits to playing its part…with respect to monitoring the nutritional impact of projects, ensuring that all our health care institutions are involved, encouraging nutritious food choices in schools and promoting the availability of foods, in line with recommended national dietary goals,” Dr. Ferguson noted.
The initiative, titled: ‘Strengthening of School Feeding Programmes in the Framework of Latin America and the Caribbean without Hunger 2025 Initiative’, aims to strengthen the Government’s existing school feeding programme by: ensuring adequate nutritional provisions for students through increased access to affordable nutritious, safe, and quality foods in schools; and establishing and maintaining a comprehensive school feeding national policy, plan and legislation.
It involves collaboration among the Ministries of Health; Agriculture and Fisheries; and Education, with support from the Government of Brazil, off whose programme the local initiative is being modelled; and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Over 300,000 students are expected to benefit under the project, which will be formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the major stakeholders.
Key among the project’s initial engagements was a two-day workshop, conducted by visiting Brazilian school feeding experts at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), for 45 participants from several government ministries, departments, and agencies on September 8 and 9.
The participants also included representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia, where similar programmes are slated for implementation.
The participants are scheduled to receive additional training, which will run until December.