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National School Nutrition Policy being finalised, says Reid

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THE Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is finalising development of the proposed National School Nutrition Policy.

Portfolio Minister Senator Ruel Reid said work to develop the policy, which aims to promote healthy eating and physical activity in schools, particularly among students, was initially slated for completion this month.

“But we still have some fine-tuning [to do]. As such, we decided to roll out the restriction of sugary drinks before,” he said.

The minister was speaking at a forum on ‘Sugars, Other Carbohydrates and Fats — Their Contribution to Obesity… and Effective Solutions’, at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston, on January 11.

Senator Reid said the policy seeks to improve the nutritional status of children and support their long-term physical and psychosocial development.

Additionally, he said it forms part of the Government’s broader approach to promoting healthy choices in and out of school for children and youth, by equipping them with the requisite knowledge and skills to make better decisions regarding diet and physical activity.

“It is only fitting that this is done, as our ministry has direct contact with the children who will, in turn, become adults,” the minister stated.

Meanwhile, Senator Reid said the National School Nutrition Standards, being developed by the Ministry of Health, will support implementation of the nutrition-related aspects of the policy.

It will outline the recommended nutrient standards for meals; non-meal items, such as snacks; and beverages.

The standards will, eventually, be incorporated into the existing National School Feeding Programme.

“It is about behaviour change. By educating our children who, through our ‘Zero to Thirteen Strategy’, we are able to reach from conception, it will engender a culture where making wise health decisions become the norm,” Senator Reid said.

He pointed out that the Government spends more than $170 million annually to treat non-communicable diseases, the four major risk factors for which are physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, harmful use of alcohol, and tobacco use.

Data from the 2008 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey indicate that less than 20 per cent of Jamaicans consume fast food more than once per week.

This is in sharp contrast to the more than 75 per cent of Jamaicans who consume more than one sweetened beverage daily.

The forum, hosted by the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, explored the extent to which excess salt, sugars, fats, and ultra-processed foods impact weight management and good health.

— JIS

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