Reinventing nutrition


The most dangerous phrase in the language is “We’ve always done it this way”- Grace Hopper

At the opening of the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum, Senator Norman Grant urged the participants “not to reinvent the wheel” in finding solutions to challenges in the agri-food sector. This is a phrase which has been used extensively in agricultural forums at the risk of sounding cliché. Today’s workshop on “The Agriculture Nutrition Nexus and the Way Forward” explores solutions to the high incidence of non-communicable diseases in both adults and children. Moderators for this session urged participants to find modern solutions that do not discard traditional wisdom.

Children-centred approaches

Why do school feeding programmes in the Caribbean provide lunch despite breakfast being considered the most important meal of the day? It is also a fact that missing breakfast affects children cognitive and academic functions. It follows that if any meal is provided in school, it should be breakfast. According to Patricia Thompson, who presents the Jamaican context for school interventions, 40% of students who attend primary school are under-nourished. This is a regional epidemic. Low-income parents cannot afford the food items for a balanced meal. Neither can they spare the time to prepare morning meals before rushing off to work. Ms. Thompson advocates for:

  • Incorporating mixed farming in school. School feeding programmes should promote vegetable production to address nutritional deficiencies. However, for balanced nutrition, portions from all the food groups are needed. Therefore, school farming should include broiler production, tree (fruit) crops and tubers;
  • Redistribution of food separation in the home: Traditionally, the father is provided the largest portion of food, the mother receives the second largest with the remainder of the food shared among the children. This results in adults who suffer from obesity and children who are underweight;
  • More research to inform meal planning in the Caribbean context using the foods that are indigenous to us.

Not surprisingly, the breakfast programmes of the New Horizons Project have registered successes in improved alertness and concentration, improved academic performance, increased attendance and improved nutritional status.

…with community support

With the improvement in child education, parents, and the community by extension, began to take a more active role in the programme. One of the major challenges that threatened the sustainability of school feeding programmes continues to be praedial larceny. It was found that if a resident of the community was responsible for the school garden, it was less likely that the school farm would be plundered. The project also partnered with community residents who had empty broiler coups for the production of broilers. Community support was further secured by providing income-generating opportunities for parents. Strategic partnerships were also made with businesses in the community and past students.

Join us as at the University of the West Indies-Cave Hill School of Business for more case studies in agriculture nutrition linkages. Follow the hashtags #CPAF15 #WS3 for more online updates. See the full programme for more information on the conference.

Photo credit: Manon Koningstein/CIAT

Blogpost by Jeanine Eugene, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015. 

Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.