Pacific partners unite to discuss school nutrition education

KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN - November 18: Arcadia Elementary School students eat lunch on November 18, 2016 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Several families in the Kalamazoo Public Schools participate in the National School Lunch Program, offering free or discounted lunches for low-income students. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

SUVA, 31 AUGUST 2018 (FAO) – With many Pacific Island populations facing significant nutrition related issues, a group of nutrition, health, education and agriculture stakeholders, supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and academics from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) have met to discuss School Nutrition Education Programs in Fiji.

Many challenges including urbanisation, globalisation and climate change have resulted in significant changes to the food environment, and consequently the health of these populations.

Many Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) currently face both chronic undernutrition and micronutrient deficiency, such as iron deficiency anaemia, with growing rates of obesity. Seven of the top ten countries in the world with the highest prevalence of diabetes are in the Pacific region.

FAO consultant, Ann Hayman said, “Extensive consultation over the previous two years identified nutrition and non-communicable disease as two of the priority areas by the FAO Subregional office for the Pacific Islands Country Programming Framework for 2018 – 2022”.

The project has been funded under a FAO Interregional Initiative to implement the The Global Action Program (GAP) on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States which aims to accelerate action on food security and nutrition to support the sustainable development of SIDS.

Lead USC researcher, Dr Sarah Burkhart said, “Schools are an ideal setting for empowering children, their families and the wider community to make healthy food choices”.

The multi-sectoral group is discussing approaches to developing a consensus on both regional and country specific school nutrition programs. Dr Libby Swanepoel of USC said, “Engagement and collaboration between key stakeholders is the first step to working together with a multisector approach to integrating nutrition into the school curriculum”.

The workshop participants have identified that school nutrition education programs may include opportunities for advocacy, professional development for teachers and stakeholders, a toolkit to integrate nutrition into curriculum, and school gardening.

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