May 5, 2015
Ministries collaborate to combat poor nutrition for Child Month

As Vincentians celebrate Child Month throughout May, several Ministries are working together to improve the diets of the nation’s children, as good nutrition is essential to their overall development.

Held under the theme ‘Nutrition and Play: Healthy Children{{more}} Today’, Child Month was launched last Wednesday, April 29, at the National Public Library, with representatives from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in attendance, along with various other stakeholders.

Addressing the audience, chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist highlighted the importance of a healthy, balanced diet in relation to a child’s educational, mental and physical development, and urged them to think more about the foods they consume.

“Unhealthy eating has negative long-term effects!” she insisted.

Gilchrist said that long-standing research has shown that eating healthily — especially at breakfast — greatly enhances learning.

She also noted that a good diet serves as fuel to enable children to play, which is essential for their physical, emotional and social development.

However, she lamented the fact that too many children nowadays do not get enough physical activity, because they spend too much time watching television, using game consoles and other digital technology.

Andrea Robin, chief nutritionist within the Ministry of Health, also spoke of the detrimental effects of poor nutrition among children — pointing out that this results not only from lack of food, but also overconsumption of food high in fats, carbohydrates and sugars.

Robin further explained that overconsumption among children is more prevalent in today’s society, and has led to an increase in children developing non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure.

She urged parents to cut down on processed foods (as they have high salt, sugar and fat content), and feed their children more fresh fruit/vegetables and meals prepared at home.

Chief agricultural officer Ashley Caine focused on how good nutrition not only aids in keeping individuals healthy, but also keeps the local agricultural industry vibrant, as it it encourages the cultivation of local produce.

Caine also touched on the importance of food safety, and how it should be instilled in our children from an early age, so that they “remain healthy and don’t become sick”.

In brief remarks, Gwenette Cambridge, senior education officer (Early Childhood Education), emphasized how important children and young people are to the future of any nation.

“The essential role of children in our society cannot be underscored.”(JSV)