The Ministry of Education and the Schools Meals Department will trial two new menus when they roll out the Summer Nutrition (SUN) programme on July 25.
The SUN programme is one of the measures that Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced on Thursday as part of a BB $17.5 million relief package that will be in place for at least the next six months to help Barbadians to manage the high cost of living in the island.
Chief Education Officer Dr Romona Archer-Bradshaw said the two menus will include healthy alternatives, and the trial will assist the ministry and school meals in creating more nutritious meals for the island’s children when they return for the new school year in September.
“There will also be an opportiunity for the children to try our new school meals menus,” she said on the Down to Brass Tacks talk show on Friday on VOB 92.9 FM. “We know that we have some work to do in making the school meals even better for our students.
“The manager of the School Meals Department and her team, they have been working exceedingly hard to come up with new menus, and this will be an exciting opportunity for our children to try those menus.”
Archer-Bradshaw added: “We are going to have a new kind of macaoni pie, but a healthier alternative. I remember the manager talking about replacing some of the minced beef with peas because we want to make things more healthy for our children moving forward.
“What better way for the children to tell us and to rate the meals and tell us how they feel about them – if they are too salty, if they are too sweet, if they are not colourful enough. We want to hear from the children as well.”
On the roll-out of the programme, Archer-Bradshaw said parents must complete the online registration form by close of business on Monday to facilitate the coordination of where to set up to cater to the children.
“We have shared the Google form for registration with the principals and the ITCs (information technology coordinators), and we have asked the ITCs to share the information with students in their students’ inbox,” she said.
“We know that parents usually access their children’s inboxes, so we will ask all parents to go online, check the children’s inbox, and fill in the form.”
She said: “If parents and guardians require a physical form, we have asked the principals to assist us by printing the forms for them, so that they can complete and submit the form at the school – but we prefer them to utilise the electronic form.
“If they wish, they can come to the Ministry of Education, we have a laptop set up there, and they can complete the form electronically there as well.”
Archer-Bradshaw said the Ministry had received over 1 000 applications so far, and the School Meals Department will be catering for all school-aged children, and they will be utilising various sites across the island.
“But the information we get from the (registration form) will help us identify the sites,” she said. “That’s the reason it will close on Monday evening… that way we will see where the children are located, and we will be able to identify the centres closest to where they are.
“We don’t want the children to have any hindrances when it comes to obtaining the meals from the various centres, so it is then that the centres will be identified.”
Archer-Bradshaw said lunches will be served at noon, and there will also be educational sessions for the children at the catering sites lasting about an hour.
“People are taking this up, and I think it is really, really good for our children,” she said. “We call it, Lunch and Learn sessions, and it’s a time for the children to learn, and it’s a time for the Ministry to learn from them about our meals, and see how we can make them more exciting, and more interesting, while making them more nutritious.”
During the after-lunch activities, children will learn about things such as etiquette, how to build self-esteem, and other personal development topics.