Head of the OECS Commission Health Unit, Dr. Carlene Radix said the School Feeding Programmes currently undertaken in six OECS Member States and supported by the OECS Commission was about putting an end to vulnerable students turning up to school on an empty stomach but also driving increased productivity due to better education and health.
A review of the successful program was undertaken by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Department of Agricultural Economics and shared on the 19th November with Chief Education Officers, Chief Medical Officers and Directors of Social Development from OECS Member States.
“The Program which is a direct in-kind transfer directly benefits students in three ways - children have access to healthy wholesome meals; academic performance usually improves as they can concentrate on class and lastly it encourages healthy eating habits.
“One healthy meal a day provided through the Program can mean all the difference in educational and health outcomes, increases in enrolment rates, reduced absenteeism and improving food security at the household level.
"Preliminary results from the review indicate for example that in Antigua and Barbuda over one year of school feeding is estimated to produce over XCD $3 million in increased productivity due to better education and health.
“Dominica’s School Feeding Programme, is now seeing children learn how to grow what they eat and to eat what they grow in School Gardens which encourages healthy eating habits at a young formative age” said Dr. Radix.
The educational component of the Program also addresses confronting statistics from the Healthy Caribbean Coalition - an alliance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) against chronic diseases – who state that currently 1 in 3 children in the Caribbean is overweight or obese putting them in peril of high blood pressure, diabetes and low self-esteem.
Dr. Irad Potter, Chief Medical Officer of the Virgin Islands concluded that the School Feeding Programmes are an opportunity to have early influence on the relationship our children have with food for both individual and societal benefit as all stakeholders now sought to expand successful elements of the Programme.
The stakeholder meeting held 19th November at Marigot Bay Saint Lucia was sponsored by UNICEF.