Deep-friend foods and fatty meat products will only be served at Cayman Islands public schools once every fourteen days under new nutrition guidelines recently set by the Ministry of Education.
The Cayman Islands Public Schools: Standards for Food Provision, which school cafeteria vendors are required to adhere to, states that healthier meal options must be offered during school lunches and snack breaks in government schools canteens.
The document – recently implemented by the Ministry of Education – also bans fast food delivery or consumption while students are on campus.
The requirements in the Standards for Food Provision document were developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Children’s Health task force.
“Poor childhood nutrition can have lasting effects, impairing cognitive development and school performance,” Education Minister Rolston Anglin said. “This is our opportunity to make a measurable difference in student health and well-being. Research consistently shows that children who eat healthier meals perform better academically and are absent from classes less often. “
School food bid contract documents list 11 standards as guidelines for the different types of food groups and also list items that should and shouldn’t be served in school. It also outlines the frequency with which certain foods should be offered.
Serving and good practice suggestions are also outlined; that includes the use of lean meats; preparing baked rather than fried items, and providing drink options that do not contain preservatives, flavouring or colouring.
Most of the new snack and drink options offered comply with the Competitive Food Guidelines developed by the US-based Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It aims to reduce childhood obesity by 2015 and empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices. The alliance was founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.
“We are of course aware that initially, students may be reluctant to try new or strange dishes,” Minister Anglin said. “So we’re taking steps to ensure that the meals are both attractive and tasty. Children will also be able to request small ‘taster’ portions for dishes which may be unfamiliar.”
Childhood obesity problems have been noted to be particularly pronounced amongst kids in the Cayman Islands.
The Health Services Authority’s 2008-09 annual school health screening reported that 37 per cent of students aged 11 to 14 at the time were either overweight or obese.
Results from the World Health Organisation noted that, in Cayman, 58 per cent of boys and 64 per cent of girls aged 13 to 15 spend more than three hours daily watching television, playing computer games, or otherwise sitting and socialising outside of school hours.
Of the 34 countries surveyed by the organisation, Cayman’s youth were revealed as being the most inactive.
“We are a very small country compared to most of those included in the WHO report,” said Mr. Anglin. “So it’s quite alarming that our youngsters should top the lowest activity list.”