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School Nutrition Education Programmes in the Pacific Islands

30/10/2018 Suva, Fiji

Many challenges including urbanisation, globalisation and climate change have resulted in significant changes to the food environment, and consequently the health of Pacific Island 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. Nine of the top ten countries in the world with the highest prevalence of diabetes are in the Pacific region.

Under the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, FAO facilitated the development of a multi-partner Global Action Programme (GAP) on Food Security and Nutrition in SIDS which aims to accelerate action on food security and nutrition to support the sustainable development of SIDS. The School Nutrition Education Programmes (SNEP) project has been funded under a FAO Interregional Initiative to implement the GAP. It is being conducted in 2018 to be available for the early stages of the FAO Country Programming Framework CPF 2018 -2022.

In collaboration with researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), the project commenced in January with a desk review of SNEP in all fourteen countries in the Pacific Islands sub-region region. This was followed by an in-country mission to twelve of the countries to validate the desk review and access further information. The data was transferred to an email template and returned to country stakeholders to confirm or amend. The FAO Capacity Assessment Matrix Summary Table was adapted for analysis and synthesis of the findings. Recommendations for Pacific wide regional SNEP and individual country SNEP were made and reported.

In August a sub-regional workshop was conducted by USC to further consult and receive feedback, validate and amend the documented individual country SNEP and Pacific regional SNEP intervention proposals. Participants from 14 countries in the region, FAO and SPC were invited.

The recommendations include an individual proposed SNEP intervention for each country. These include; review of school nutrition curriculum and development of contextual/localised resource kits to assist teachers; producing more resources for teachers to integrate nutrition in the classroom and gardening activities; physical resources to support teaching (e.g. activity booklets, food models, posters, pamphlets, media, an App to support the SNEP); integration of school kitchen garden projects into the curriculum; expansion of the Health Promoting Schools programme; facilitation of improved facilities for teaching e.g. for home economics and school kitchen facility and; where appropriate, adaption of existing nutrition, and nutrition related curriculum and resources (i.e. agriculture) from existing Australian and New Zealand curriculum to suit local context.

Pacific regional interventions recommended include establishment of a formal Pacific wide network for SNEP stakeholders to foster collaboration and support; development of a generic Pacific Wide Teaching and Learning Resource Kit, which can be then contextualised by the SNEP taskforce in each country.

All countries have a requirement for a collection of resources which need to be adapted to fit the local culture and food system. A generic Teaching and Learning Kit (i.e. teacher guidelines, posters) will support the local SNEP taskforce to develop resources in line with curriculum development, and review and; development of a generic Pacific Teacher and Parent/Caregiver training workshop/module which can be contextualised by the SNEP taskforce in each country. Teachers have requested professional development in nutrition, health and gardening. It is also important to incorporate the wider community in educational activities. The development of a framework for the delivery of this education will assist countries to further enhance teaching practice, and to support healthy behaviours in, and outside the school setting.

The project is on track for completion at the end of the year. Although the next steps will be determined by the final project report one approach identified by the August workshop participants who were enthusiastic about the recommendations and proposals is to begin by piloting Pacific regional level and a country specific School Nutrition Education Programme intervention in 2019.

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