Healthy snacks go down a treat at school

Students at Cayman Prep and High
School have been abandoning fatty and sugary snacks in favour of healthier
options, as part of a programme to improve children’s health.

The school has been reviewing its
snack regime with the help of its Nutrition Committee, which includes nutritionist
Andrea Hill and Dr. Sook Yin, medical director and ministry liaison of the
Children’s Health Task Force Pilot Project.  

The task force works on the premise
that healthy nutrition fosters mental, social and physical well-being, which, if
instilled during childhood, can lay the foundation for a healthy adulthood.

The group is looking to schools as
the perfect places in which to encourage and educate children to make healthy
choices.

According to school intake figures
collated by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority, nearly one in four
schoolchildren in Cayman are overweight.

The HSA revealed last year that 22
per cent of school children are overweight and 14.8 percent were at risk of
becoming overweight.

Ms
Hill said: “Cayman Prep has made healthy food choices a priority for their
young students, offering a wonderful variety of snack choices that would appeal
to any child.  It is great to see the
message of health and nutrition being reinforced by such actions.  CPHS has set a great example.”

Dr.
Sook Yin agreed, saying: “[The Children’s Health Task
Force] has set an
excellent example that when the canteen and parents work together to offer
healthy choices of food to the students, and they are attractively served, the
students are very happy to make those choices. 

“We
are hoping the National Food Policy for school meals will be adopted by all
schools in the Cayman Islands and serve as a guideline to all the meals served
in the canteens and that they should be nutritious and healthy for our growing
children.”

Currently,
there is not National Food Policy or guidelines for what kinds of food should
be served in schools in Cayman.

A
recent UN survey of 34 countries revealed that Cayman’s

The Public Health Department
recently undertook a drive to highlight the importance of including more fruit
and water in the public schools.

The department’s staff will visit
primary schools in all three islands during May, which is Child Month, to host
health talks focused on the nutritional and health benefits of natural foods,
as well as distribute fruit and water snack packs.

From last term, Cayman Prep
School’s primary site replaced a snack shop used by Juniors in Years 3 to 6
with a daily prepared snack, which was did not contain high fructose corn
syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, artificial colours,
artificial flavours, or artificial sweeteners and instead contained low-fat
dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt, milk and other snacks with low salt content.

Children are offered water to drink
every day and low-fat milk occasionally.

Primary school principal Brian
Wilson has noticed that with the Infants at the school (Years KG to 2), for
whom the school has already been providing healthy snacks for years, the number
of children who eat the fruit on offer without question has increased.

According to a press release, the
school has found that the more children are involved with food, the more they
enjoy the experience and the more likely they are to try something they may be
unsure of.

The school plans to hold tasting
sessions and give students opportunities to assist with preparing or dishing up
food.

Mise en Place, the catering company
used by the Primary School for lunches, reviews and improves the nutritional
content and choice available for the school lunches, and has started using
reusable rather than disposable plates to serve lunch at the school. 

Throughout the school year, task
force members have met with parents and teachers at PTA meetings to help
educate them about healthy lifestyle choices for their children, and themselves.

It
has also been working with students at George Hicks
Campus as part of the pilot programme to introduce healthier eating habits.

The task force was created last
year by the Cayman Heart Fund, Generali Worldwide, Rotary Sunrise, Cayman
Islands Health Services Authority, TrinCay Medical and BodySculptor to help improve
the health of school kids and to tackle the growing epidemic of obesity.

The increasing problem of childhood
obesity was addressed in a television programme called The Big Hurt which aired
on Cayman 27 this week.

“Our country is faced with the
reality that more than 27 percent of its children under the age of 6 and almost
38 percent of its students aged between 11 and 14 are classified as overweight.
It is time for action,” said Health Minister Mark Scotland, whose inistry
partnered with local non-governmental organisation AMF Partners to air the
programme.

Through the eyes of four
youngsters, The Big Hurt explored what obese children have to endure, how they
struggle on a daily basis and how they are made to feel isolated.

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