Come September, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will be extending the provision of fruit juices under the School Feeding Programme to all 136,000 students in 850 schools served by Nutrition Products Limited.
State Minister in the Ministry, Hon. Ian Hayles, in his presentation in the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on July 25, said the Ministry will be working closely with the Ministries of Education and Health, Jamaica Bureau of Standards, and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) on the initiative.
He noted that with this expansion, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority
(RADA) in collaboration with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will identify groups of women/farmers at the community level, and assist them to make viable and sustainable inputs into the feeding programme of schools in their locale.
The State Minister said the programme will be demand-driven, and groups will be asked to work with a specific school to indicate what input they can make from their agricultural production or cottage industry.
“We are making this demand-driven because we want the community groups to come up with innovative ideas in conjunction with the schools,” he said.
He informed that some $14 million has been allocated to support the groups, and resources will be made available to ensure their viability and sustainability.
“For example, if a group of farmers can supply local fresh fruit juice to a particular school on a daily basis, and require juicing equipment, packaging or utensils, a one-off grant funding will be provided, with appropriate food handling training,” Mr. Hayles said.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been working with the Ministry of Education to provide some 32,000 students with natural fruit juices one day per week instead of bag juice or syrup.