10 June – Castries, Saint Lucia – Six primary schools across Saint Lucia with a combined roll call of 1,500 students are set to benefit from the joint effort of the Government of Saint Lucia and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in supporting the enhancement of the NationalSchool Feeding Programme. Within that framework, FAO provided a variety of small garden and kitchen equipment which included garden hoses, knapsack sprayers, extendable hand rake, watering cans, revolving sprinklers, manual garden tillers, electronic weighing scales, heavy duty food processors, stand up food mixers, knife sharpeners and vacuum sealers to each of the schools to support and further develop vegetable gardens and school meals preparation.
In January 2021, an assessment was jointly conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education, and with the support of a nutritionist to determine the equipment needs of the gardens and kitchen in the schools. The assessment took into consideration several aspects, including the menu cycle recently developed for the national school feeding, equipment and materials currently available, and the number of children who relied on the school meals programme. The garden equipment identified and obtained will be essential for the support being provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and the vision of the Government to promote school gardens as a teaching tool for food and nutrition education. Meanwhile, the kitchen equipment will facilitate the implementation of the new menu, incorporating greater amount of nutritious, healthy and fresh products coming from local farmers. They will also provide an opportunity for students to experiment with vegetables harvested from the school gardens in the meals offered. Earlier this year, with the support of FAO, a group of 150 cooks were trained on methods to incorporate healthy foods into school lunches.
Cherry Anne Smith, National Project Personnel in Saint Lucia, assisted in bringing the initiative to fruition and was present at the official handover ceremony. She stated, “It gives me great honor in my capacity as the National Project Coordinator for the Resilient School Feeding Program to hand over these equipment on behalf of FAO. School feeding programs in Saint Lucia, as elsewhere, have long been established and recognized as an important instrument in facilitating learning, especially for underprivileged and vulnerable school children”. She highlighted that one of the most significant human capital investments that a country can make is to support the health, nourishment and learning of its children.
Smith added, “The school feeding program has had many challenges over the years, including an absence of school gardens and support staff. Another challenge includes a limited number of kitchen and garden equipment. It is our hope that the items provided today will go a long way in improving the school feeding program, particularly ensuring sustainable school gardens and meal preparation that incorporate local products supplied by smallholder farmers. Our mission at FAO is to keep collaborating with the Government in its effort to strengthen the National School Feeding Program, and we look forward to keep collaborating with all stakeholders in this endeavor”.
Meanwhile, Soriah Niles-Regis, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Food Security and Rural Development stated, “The School Feeding Programme in Saint Lucia has created a buffer for many children in Saint Lucia, particularly at the infant and primary level while assisting to eradicate malnutrition. Today we say a big thank you to our friends at the FAO. We truly appreciate your commitment to the children in Saint Lucia. With the help of the FAO we have seen great things happen with the School Feeding program. The FAO is also assisting in building healthy relationships among stakeholders. This collaboration will go a long way in improving the livelihood of our children”.
Also attending the presentation was Ms Hyacinth Forde, Officer in charge Extension Division in The Ministry of Agriculturewho expressed gratitude to FAO and commitment of the Ministry to keep supporting school gardens throughout the country while expanding educational opportunities in Agricultural Science.