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Bahamas’ national school meal programme covers students responding to eligibility criteria from pre-primary to secondary public schools. In 2006, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, with the support of FAO, developed nutrition standards to provide more nutritious meals and food in schools.
Food and nutrition education is a stand-alone subject called Food Nutrition, and food and nutrition themes are also transversally addressed in other subjects.

School Food

School meals

Bahamas has a national school meal programme, which is targeted at vulnerable schoolchildren and adolescents, based on eligibility criteria, such as household socioeconomic level. The programme is managed by the School Feeding Unit from the Ministry of Education and covers eligible students from pre-primary to secondary school in public institutions, as well as children with disabilities.

In 2006 the Ministry of Education, jointly with the Ministry of Health, and backed by FAO support, developed nutrition standards with the aim of providing more nutritious meals and school food to students.

The standards are compulsory and apply to all meals and foods sold inside school premises. They are applicable to all public schools, from pre-primary to secondary.

Compulsory Standards for Healthy Lunch Meals in Bahamian Schools (2011)

Compulsory Standards for Tuck Shops in Bahamian Schools (2011)

The main characteristic of these standards are summarized below:

Users of the guidanceCaterers, food handlers, school administrators and school tuck shops operators
School food coveredMeals provided as part of the school meal programme and foods sold inside school premises
ObjectivesIn keeping with the recommendations set out in the Dietary Guidelines for Bahamas, the objectives of School Lunch Guidelines are as follows: to achieve energy balance, to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, to limit intake of fat, sugar and salt, to maintain proper growth and development, to achieve and maintain good health.
BasisBoth standards are food-based
Food groups coveredCereals and starchy vegetables, fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy, beans and peas, fats and oils, sweets, sugars, salts, foods of minimal nutritional value
Other guidance includedThey also include recommendations on food safety and hygiene, packaging and storage, as well as on personal hygiene and dress codes

 

Development process

The compulsory standards were developed based on the Bahamian Dietary Guidelines, mainly regarding recommended servings per food group. The process considered main priority nutrition issues reported by the Ministry of Health, such as rising levels of hypertension and juvenile diabetes. Other aspects such as the availability of foods in various localities and data on imported foods were also considered during the development process. Dietitians at the nutrition unit of the Ministry of Health and Food Educators were consulted during the process.

The standards are a stand-alone policy, however, they are embedded in the framework of the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Agenda for Action for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas 2017-2022 as nutrition in schools is stated as a key component to ensuring food and nutrition security among children.

As of early 2022, the Ministry of Education and the Nutrition Unit of the Ministry of Health have started discussions to revise and update both sets of standards.

Implementation

The School Feeding unit of the Ministry of Education is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the standards. At the school level, there is an assigned administrator that has the responsibility for the food handlers.

Trainings for food handlers are conducted by the Ministry of Education, in some instances in collaboration with academia and culinary institutions. These trainings include both theoretical and practical components, for instance on how to prepare healthy snacks, use fruits and vegetables to enhance meals, reduce the sugar content of meals, and how to prepare meals based on the availability of food items in indigenous territories, etc.

The caterers are responsible for developing recipes and menus that comply with the standards.

The Ministry of Education plans to standardize infrastructure across schools, to ensure a safe water supply, good kitchen conditions and enough space for food preservation and storage, etc.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Ministry of Education is also the entity responsible for ensuring standard compliance. The monitoring and evaluation plan includes aspects such as the continuous supervision of the assigned school administrator, daily electronic assessments of food handlers, and the preparation of quarterly reports and a final evaluation of compliance at the end of the school year.

The School Feeding unit regularly visits schools to supervise compliance with the standards and sets markers to be achieved by the unit. Compliance irregularities are addressed through verbal or written notifications or a work suspension if the issue was not amended.

The Ministry of Education is planning to recruit compliance officers that can assist with the supervision plans of the School Feeding Unit. Future trainings are also planned for such officers.

The nutritional status of schoolchildren is assessed by the school health unit through medical checks in grades 1, 7 and 10 and the main results are used to inform the Ministry of Education programme adaptation accordingly.


Go to the summary of the standards.

School-Based Food and Nutrition Education

Food and nutrition education is integrated within the national curriculum in Bahamas as a stand-alone subject called Food Nutrition from pre-primary to secondary school. Food and nutrition themes are also transversal to other subjects including biology, health sciences, physical education, cosmetology and health and family life; and a cross reinforcement of the nutrition concepts learned is taught through other subjects like French, maths and English.

Main targetsPre-primary, primary and secondary school
Main educatorsTeachers
Integration within the school curriculum

As an independent subject:

  • Food and nutrition (grades 10 to 12)

As part of other subjects:

  • Family and consumer science (grade 7 to 9)

Transversally in the school curriculum

Learning objectives relevant to health and nutrition

Schoolchildren will be able:

  1. To choose, prepare and serve nutritionally balanced meals in a socially acceptable manner
  2. To choose, prepare and serve nutritionally balanced meals with meet the needs of different ages and special groups

 

Development

The food and nutrition education curriculum is developed by the Ministry of Education and is regularly revised. The general curriculum is developed using a five-year cycle, which involves a stakeholder consultation as well as a pilot testing phase with teachers before implementing it.

Implementation

The Ministry of Education is the main entity responsible for implementing the curriculum. The Ministry of Agriculture and the nutrition unit of the Ministry of Health are also involved in implementing activities, like the Farm to Table initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, which involves learning where the food comes from and how these foods can be used, or an awareness campaign organized in conjunction with the Ministry of Health during the World Diabetes Day to teach students what to eat.

Specialized teachers, most having higher education in nutrition, are the main front line food educators.

Family and consumer science (grades 7 to 9) is a three-year course that explores areas like food & nutrition, clothing & construction, home management, parenting & child development, and consumer education. During the lessons, the teachers use field trips, demonstrations, games, role play, and menu writing as learning techniques. The main topics addressed include the Bahamian Dietary Guidelines and other food images (e.g. My plate of the US Dietary Guidelines) and planning healthy snacks. In food and nutrition (grades 10 to 12), more complex topics are covered, such as sources of foods, meal planning and meal preparation, health & safety, nutrition requirements and nutrient deficiency diseases. In this case, the teachers also include research papers, display boards and documentaries for the lessons.

Activities and pedagogical methodologies change according to the school. Examples of activities carried out at the school level include culinary competitions, food exhibitions of local fruits and vegetables, speech competitions, assemblies, etc.

The Ministry of Education for the school year 2022-2023 is planning to organize training sessions as well as infomercials or media blitzes targeting parents, mainly on how to plan a healthy meal within a specific budget. This has been planned as a response to the economic hardship that some Bahamian families have been suffering as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Ministry of Education is responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of food and nutrition education in the curriculum. This is mainly carried out through observations and academic examination.

There are two national examinations relevant to nutrition in the Bahamian school system, one at the junior level and the other at the senior level. The examination at the junior level encompasses a coursework (written & practical component), a planning paper, a practical examination and a theory paper covering the five areas explores during the studies.

The Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) is an important achievement for secondary students to access university or professional qualifications. In this exam, students have to plan, purchase and prepare a healthy meal.

Photos

Examples of school meals, trainings and other school food initiatives in Bahamas.

News

07/12/2019
Under the FAO Technical Cooperation Project," Assessment of the National School Feeding Programme in The Bahamas”, representatives from the Ministries of Education, Health and Agriculture participated in a study tour to the Dominican Republic in November 2019.