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JIS News

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this is especially true for young children, who need proper nutrition for learning. Research also shows that kids who skip breakfast tend to have more behaviour problems.
It is for this reason that the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) Limited has collaborated with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, to launch a Nutritional Support Programme, to ensure that needy students in basic schools across the island, are provided with breakfast and lunch every day. The $2.5 million programme serves more than 180 schools in 14 parishes and was implemented in March of 2004.
Maurice Reid, Manager of JPSCo’s Community Relations Department, informs JIS News that the school feeding effort was launched some two years ago, after the company was approached by the Social Development Commission (SDC) and the Central Village/Windsor Heights combined school feeding programme, to offer nutritional support for children in the two St. Catherine communities.
“These entities approached JPSCo in January 2002 for assistance to increase the nutritional value of the lunches given to 691 students from 10 basic schools in the Central Village/Windsor Heights communities. It was proposed that JPSCo would sponsor vegetables, a nutritional drink and fruits for the students,” he says.
The company then decided to take its assistance nation wide and offered to match the Education Ministry’s lunch subsidy to basic schools. The government provides an annual lunch subsidy of $250 per student to recognized early childhood institutions.
Explaining how the programme works, Daffodil Bruce-Miller, Community Relations Officer at the light and power company, tells JIS News that the schools are divided into clusters and are encouraged to open bank accounts from which they can withdraw the necessary amounts.
Approximately $732,000 has been granted to basic schools in St Andrew alone, with the South Eastern cluster receiving $183,000 of this amount.
Mrs. Bruce-Miller notes that a system of check and balances has been put in place to ensure the appropriate use of the funds. “The schools are instructed to buy the food and then provide the company with receipts of the purchases and before they are given further funding, we have to be provided with receipts,” she points out.
Mr. Reid notes that the programme has been a success. “Principals and education officers have testified that there have been indications that through the programme, students have been receiving a much more balanced diet, which of course enables them to learn at a much quicker rate,” he says. The nutrition programme comes to an end this year, but Mr. Reid indicates that the company is willing to continue its support.
He points out that JPSCo has consistently offered its assistance to the development of education and “we have sponsored and continue to sponsor educational programmes”.
The JPSCo/Kettering scholarship programme for inner-city students, the annual JPSCo science fairs, as well as the donation of computers and other equipment, are among education efforts to which the company contributes.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Clarke, Executive Assistant Advisor to the Education Minister tells JIS News that the Ministry is pleased with the support given by the JPSCo.
“The programme has provided tremendous assistance to the schools. Students can now go to school and not worry about not having food to eat. Additionally, the food provided is free of cost, so it provides great ease to student and parents. It has helped a lot,” she stresses.
She says that the Ministry would like to see the programme extended, but this decision rests largely on the light and power company. “Based on the response of the schools, I would say yes to the possibility of extending the programme, but the onus is on the JPSCo to decide if they want to extend it”, she points out.
Audrey Morris, a nutritionist at the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), has endorsed the JPSCo programme and other initiatives aimed at providing children with proper nutrition.
She notes that while children need more than three square meals a day, studies have shown that a child learns better when he or she has had breakfast. She further adds that healthy snacks are important between meals and to provide a balance diet.