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It is indeed a sweet move, as the headline suggested in the last SUNDAY SUN.
I welcome the plan to integrate more fruit, vegetables and water into the diet of our young people at school. There is no doubt that healthy diets contribute to healthy minds.
Starting this term, the Ministry of Education has ensured that for at least two days a week, healthy fruit and water will be allowed on school compounds. I like it! I also like the fact that they have also made it sound fun for the students – Water Wednesday and Fruit Friday.
It has become necessary to implement this plan, given the high levels of obesity. One official revealed that currently 30 to 40 per cent of children are overweight or obese. At this current rate it is projected this may reach 50 per cent by 2030. So there is no doubt that we need to do something about this.
However, I have a major problem with the plan.
I secured a copy of the menu earmarked for the School Meals Centre at Lancaster, St James, and was disturbed when I went through it in detail.
I was shocked to see that while on one hand the ministry was pushing a healthier diet for schoolchildren, foods like macaroni and corned beef, cheesy macaroni and beef burgers were still on the list of foods being offered.
And, sadly, macaroni pie has made the menu more than one day in the week.
How can we be seriously talking about improving the diets of our young children and include macaroni pie that has little to no nutritional value?
While this has seemingly become a staple of many Bajan homes – competing for the title of national dish – macaroni pie has no right on the menu.
So my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check the nutritional value of macaroni pie. This is what I found:
The calories and nutrition will vary based on your ingredients, but one cup of a typical home-made macaroni and cheese recipe would provide 492 calories, 22 grammes of fat, 13 grammes of saturated fat, 19 grammes of protein, 54 grammes of carbohydrate, 3 grammes of fibre, and 909 milligrammes of sodium.
It is more than ironic for me that two days after the new plan was published in the newspaper, there was also news that the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association relaunched its Buy Local campaign. Now while the objective is to promote community tourism and sensitise small businesses, I believe this is a great opportunity, if there ever was one, to really push local foods on the menus of our schools.
I can think of all the tasty dishes which can be made using breadfruit, sweet potato, eddoes, locally-grown vegetables that would not only promote healthy eating, but also make young people aware of products locally grown.
I remember growing up, my mother always found different ways to get me and my brother to eat our vegetables. The one that stuck was what we called “cheesy vegetables” – boiled vegetables with grated cheese on top. It did the trick because vegetables have always been a part of every meal I use, to this day.
That said, I cannot ignore the clear effort to include fruit like apples, pears, melon and bananas, as well as vegetables like carrots, lettuce, and corn on the new meal plan.
It is definitely a step in the right direction, but we must tweak the plan to make sure we get the results we want – that is, a healthier future for our young people. (CM)