The only regional non-communicable disease (NCD) alliance of health and non-health civil society organisations launched a campaign to get healthy food policies in schools around the Caribbean.
The Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) announced on Tuesday that it had embarked on “an ambitious campaign promoting nutritious food in schools”, which it hoped will get Caribbean students healthier, as they return to their classrooms around the region.
The six-week digital campaign, “#ActOnFacts – The Food in Schools Matters” encourages public and policymaker support for the introduction of policies limiting the sale and marketing of foods full of sugar, fats and salt in and around schools, while increasing the availability of healthy foods and drinking water.
“Despite the increasing policy momentum, the pace of action does not match the urgency of the situation,” HCC president Sir Trevor Hassell said in a news release.
“The pandemic has highlighted our deep fragility underscoring more than ever the need to build resilience. The health of our region is the wealth of our region. We need to invest in prevention policies which target our most precious resource – our children.”
According to the HCC, children spend much of their time at school where unhealthy food and sweet drinks – more available and often cheaper than their healthy counterparts – are heavily marketed.
The Coalition highlighted that eating habits established when young can last a lifetime and one in three Caribbean children was already living with overweight and obesity.
The HCC noted that over consumption of unhealthy food is also the No. 1 driver of NCDs such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the Caribbean.
The campaign – which encourages parents to push for healthy school nutrition policies – uses largely monochrome imagery: playing on the concept that the link between the health of the region’s children and diet is simply “black and white”.
The HCC applauded some Caribbean countries for moving ahead with national policies that regulate the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages in schools, including Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and, most recently, Grenada.
The Coalition noted that Barbados and St Lucia have similar policies in process.
In addition, the HCC indicated that the campaign will support the regional efforts for sustainable food and nutrition security, which urges the Caribbean to move towards growing what its people eat and eating what its people grow.
The HCC brought together a raft of partners for the campaign. They include UNICEF, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ), and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) with the technical collaboration of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The HCC described itself as an alliance with over 100 members that works closely with regional and international leaders in NCD prevention and control to leverage the power of civil society by strengthening and supporting its membership in the implementation of programmes aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with NCDs.