The School Nutrition Committee met with 38 parents and guardians of children attending schools from five central districts to discuss the types of food that children have access within school environment on Tuesday 3rd October 2017.

This meeting is the first in a series being organised with all parties concerned with nutrition in schools, in efforts to revise the current School Nutrition Policy adopted in 2008.

“We feel that with new scientific evidence and changes in food all around, the policy should be amended to reflect those changes” said Mrs Stephanie Desnousse, Dietician at the Health Care Agency, and coordinator of the activity.

The School Nutrition Policy coordinates all aspect related to food in schools, including nutrition, curriculum, tuck-shop, the provision of school meals, and training of staff.  It covers Nutrition Education, Food Provision, Food Safety and Evaluation & Monitoring. It divides food into three groups according to the nutritional value i.e. the nutritional benefits provided. These groups are High Nutritional Value, Moderate Nutritional Value and Low Nutritional Value. According to these classifications food are regulated in number of times they are eaten in schools or wether they should be prohibited.

After being given a short introduction on what the policy constitutes and what it means for parents, children and teachers, the parents had an open floor to direct concerns and questions.

Many of those present admitted to not having known about the Policy prior to the meeting.  This was especially noted on the ban of certain sugary beverages, like lemonades, Ribena and concentrated juices, which continues to be served in schools during specials events such as Children’s day.

Image shows four people, one standing explanation the nutrition policy

Parent gets explanation from committee member on various aspects of the nutrition policy

The main concern of parents, was the lack of solutions being provided for them, in light of these recommendations. “It’s true that these will benefit our children in the long run but if we face reality, many of what is being suggested is expensive for many of the parents here,” one parent who did not wish to be name said. He noted on the high price of commodities in shops and the lack of effort from those concerned, to improve on this.

As a solution to this point, it was suggested that other parties, namely a representative from the Ministry of Finance, join future discussions and eventually the School Nutrition Committee, to ensure that these particular aspects are accurately taken into consideration.

The committee currently comprises of five representatives from the Ministry of Health, one from the Ministry of Education, one from NATCOF, and one from Pam’ Catering which provides daily School Meals to Pre-school, primary and secondary institutions.

At the end of the discussion Mrs Desnousse expressed her satisfaction at the turnout and participation. “These changes shouldn’t be made in isolation. It’s really good that we’ve invited the parents and they came to share their thoughts.”Mrs Desnousse concluded by adding the importance of good nutrition, especially for children and urged parents to give their children good eating habits from a very young age.

It is expected that other parents, as well as teachers will also have a chance to discover more about the policy and ways to enforce it during the coming months.