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YOU ME & CSME: Got milk!

Michelle Cave

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OVER THE summer vacation, I had my three nephews with me. They are three balls of great big, endlessly moving energy. They are regular kids ranging from four to ten years old.
 Consciously shopping for the foods that would best grow their minds and bodies, I had it mastered. Except for one thing. Milk.
 That first week, at the milk section I picked up a carton I supposed was fresh milk. I see cows about the place, so I figured the closest thing to hand would have been a carton of fresh milk.  
The price of a little carton, I thought was odd, but on inquiring from other shoppers, realised it was right. I bought it, thinking somewhere in the back of my mind that I was sure I heard that children needed mega large portions of milk to grow their minds and bodies healthily. How in heaven’s name were people affording large portions of this for their children, their teens, if this little container cost so much.
 The surprises did not stop there, however. On opening the tetrapaked container, and pouring three glasses – well trying to fill three glasses – three pairs of hands eagerly drank. Three esophaguses choked simultaneously at the table. Three pairs of little eyes beckoned me to taste it. It was clear, I had to find another option. All of that week,  I tried to disguise it. Nothing worked. I had to find a source of milk for these kids and soon.
 Somehow, I remember from my childhood, milk tasting better.
 I began to phone around to friends. I phoned one in St Lucia, to learn she gets hers from a nearby farm but the majority of milk, she thought, was imported from somewhere in the States.
 I phoned a friend in Martinique, their milk comes from France. I asked what it tasted like, she said it was good but thick. I guessed it wasn’t the watery stuff I was drinking.
 I called a friend in Grenada. She said she was almost sure their milk was imported from Barbados.
 Paediatricians say it is necessary for children seven and older, to imbibe four to six glasses of unflavoured, unsweetened milk. Children older than two should have only low fat milk. Two cups of milk per day for kids ages 1 to 3. Three cups per day for kids ages 4 to 8 years old and four cups per day for kids ages 9 to 18.
 I know that milk is supposed to be a staple of growing people’s diets, but I cannot fathom how people are getting this foul tasting thing into children and teenagers, the most discriminating ages of the human species. Everyone else I called said they put lots of everything in it to “flavour it”.
My nephews consumed something like 70 glasses of milk per week. Accessing a farm and reaching a fair price, each week I’d have a delivery that filled my bottom fridge shelf.  
But all of this had me investigating the milk that reaches our supermarket shelves. My question was, if kids need all of this milk, is milk in a subsidised basket of goods so that it was accessible to everyone who needed it? Is this so all through the Caribbean? And are ministries of health, like ministries of education, working harmoniously to ensure this is the case.
This got me to thinking on who is responsible for our children having access to affordable and nutritious food.  
 Who is ensuring that the basic food produced and/or sold in the Caribbean is actually nourishing our children?
• Michelle Cave has done her thesis on the regional integration movement.