School canteen as an affordable alternative
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Back to school is upon us, and parents across Jamaica are deciding how much money they can reasonably afford for lunch. There is an increasing trend among high schools to have fast-food outlets provide lunch for their students. My mind struggles to understand why they would think fast food is the right match for students in the middle of the learning day. I cannot help but think of the high levels of extortion schools are able to commit as there is often no competition to these outlets. Each year, the students return to signs informing them of $20-$50 price increase on most if not all items. Many schools have such high prices literally breaking the pockets of the students and by extension their parents. Foods are fashionable, but unhealthy in a country which has high rates of obesity and its associated diseases of hypertension and diabetes. The schools profit from the arrangement, but the children develop poor eating habits early in life.
With Jamaica's rich and internationally recognised cuisine, I see the school canteen as that one place that students should be able to afford a healthy meal. Instead, many starve themselves throughout the day so they can purchase a meal off campus on the way home (which is against most school rules anyway), but way more affordable.
I think the time is right for a new focus on school meals which are tasty, healthy and affordable. This will prove challenging, but as a resourceful people, I am sure Jamaican nutritionists and culinary artists can find a solution.
Schools should encourage healthy eating habits and not contribute to the high costs of chronic diseases in the country.
Julia F. Lindo