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The Barbados school meal programme provides hot or cold lunches to preschool, primary and selected secondary schoolchildren. Other types of school food that students can access to include vending machines, food from tuck shops, and food vendors operating both in and around schools. In 2022, the Barbados School Nutrition Policy was launched covering various aspects such as the introduction of a new set of nutrition standards for school meals, restrictions on the marketing of food and beverages and strategies to improve the school food environment.

School Food

School meals

As of 2022, Barbados has a National School Meal Programme that is operated by the School Meals Department based in the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The programme provides hot or cold lunches to preschool, primary and selected secondary schoolchildren (a four-week menu cycle is currently being developed). The department also provides a milk drink during the morning break to all children attending pre-primary and primary schools, five days a week. Students can also purchase food from tuck shops, vending machines and food vendors operating both in and around schools. 

 The Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other stakeholders, has developed the Barbados School Nutrition Policy (2022) with which all public and private schools from preschool to tertiary level must now comply. The policy aims to: 1) introduce a new set of nutrition standards for all foods and beverages available in schools; 2) restrict the marketing and advertisement of foods and beverages that are not consistent with the nutrition standards; and 3) improve the school food environment. The Barbados School Nutrition Policy supersedes the nutritional and practical guidelines for healthy foods in schools, developed in 2015 by the National Nutrition Centre.  

The main characteristics of the nutrition standards in the Barbados School Nutrition Policy (2022) are summarized below: 


Users of the guidance
  • Caterers, food handlers
  • School administrators
  • Teachers
  • Policymakers
  • Health professionals
  • Parents
  • Non-Governmental organizations
  • School food vendors
School food covered
  • Meals provided as part of the school meal programme
  • Food sold inside and outside the school premises
ObjectivesTo ensure that only nutritious food and beverages that enhance the health, learning and well-being of schoolchildren and sold, served and promoted ins school environments.
BasisFood and nutrient-based
Food groups coveredStarchy roots, fruits, tubers, cereals/grains, legumes, nuts, dark green, yellow and other vegetables, animal foods, fats and substitutes and beverages
Other guidance includedThey also include recommendations on how food service areas are well-maintained

 

Development process

The nutrition standards defined in the Barbados School Nutrition Policy (2022) have been updated from the previous nutritional and practical guidelines for healthy foods in schools (2015) guidance, which was in turn based on recommendations in the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for Barbados. In this case, the new Healthy Eating Guide for Barbados (2022) was one of the precursors of this policy. Implementation of the 2015 guidance was very low in schools and a need was identified for a new wide-ranging policy supported by an implementation plan.  

The National Nutrition Centre, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, plans to assist the School Meals Department in reviewing the current four-week menu cycle and support procurement processes, based on the new nutrition standards (2022). The meals served or sold in schools via the school meal programme, the cafeterias/canteens or by vendors should provide one-third of the recommended daily requirements for energy, protein, vitamin C, iron and calcium for the targeted age groups (4–18-year-olds).  

Implementation

The Barbados School Nutrition Policy has an accompanying implementation plan (yet to be finalized) to ensure that concrete actions are taken at the school level. Some of the planned measures include: dissemination of the nutrition standards among all school personnel, parents, vendors and students via different communication channels (still to be defined); orientation sessions on how to implement the guidelines (carried out by the National Nutrition Centre and the Ministry of Education); and trainings on basic nutrition principles, safe food handling practices, and use of the menus, recipes and portion control for different age groups carried out by the School Meals Department and canteen staff. 

To date, the National Nutrition Centre has worked with the Ministry of Education and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados to sensitize canteen operators and school management on the School Nutrition Policy. School canteen operators will be responsible for tailoring the menus based on the proposed four-week menu cycle to be developed by the School Meals Department.   As part of this collaboration and jointly with the Barbados Childhood Obesity Prevention coalition, they have launched an updated list of options for snacks and drinks. 

The School Nutrition Policy calls for the regulation and control of food vending in and around schools, with vendors required to apply for an annual license from the Ministry of Education. Permit approval will now be based on mandatory adherence to the nutrition standards with monitoring procedures to be put in place to check compliance. The Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Vendors Association are planning a joint forum for vendors to discuss their role in the implementation of the nutrition policy.  

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Ministry of Education will be developing a framework for monitoring policy implementation and evaluating its intended effects, in which indicators and procedures will be defined. Some of the expected outputs by 2028, as stated in the policy, are that children increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables by 15% (compared to 2015 levels), that 80% of preschool children bring healthy snacks to schools (compared to 2015 levels), and a 15% lower consumption of students who usually drink carbonated soft drinks one or more times per day during the past 30 days (compared to 2011 levels).  

Officers from the school meals department are responsible for monitoring the acceptance of meals and any changes needed to avoid food wastage. School authorities should be responsible for ensuring that nutrition and food service standards are well reflected in catering contracts with school canteens. 

Go to the Summary of the Standards

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