The Ministry of Education is making it mandatory for all school cafeterias to serve only healthy meals or risk not having their contracts renewed – after it was found most high school menus consisted almost entirely of white potato fries, burgers and fried chicken – key culprits in childhood obesity.
The move is intended to ramp up efforts against childhood obesity, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw told the Healthy Caribbean Coalition as it opened a two-day meeting on “supportive environments for accelerated childhood obesity prevention policies” at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning.
The Education Minister said that there had been several draft policies on school menus in the past but there was no enforcement.
She said: “The approach basically is to make it mandatory for persons to have to comply with a lot of the requirements within these documents.
“In order for your contract to be renewed you would soon find that you would have to be compliant with at least having a significant portion of your menu being of healthy and nutritious values,” followed by loud cheers from the audience.
She explained: “The initiative that we have looked at is a framework for a food and nutrition policy for private and public nursery, primary and secondary schools in Barbados.
“It has already been drafted and the document is blueprint which gives direction and guidance to maintaining the sale of healthy and nutritious snacks as well as the maintenance of high sanitary standards in all spaces for sale of goods on the schools’ compound.”
Bradshaw revealed that research conducted last year on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation revealed that meals offered by canteens in approximately 21 secondary schools are not as healthy as they ought to be.
The study showed that white potato fries made up 88 per cent of the menus, burgers 82 per cent and fried chicken and chips constituted 71 per cent of menus.
The Minister added that she has begun to lay the groundwork by trying to get vendors to voluntarily begin the transition.
She said: “I have started to ask all concessionaires operating in school spaces to start looking at adding healthy foods to their menu.
“I have even asked them as well to start to also look at providing samples for some of the students because sometimes you have to introduce students into a healthy lifestyle by making things that are more appealing not only to the eye but to the taste palette as well.”