THE GOVERNMENT'S information arm is reporting that the school-feeding initiative under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) will be implemented in institutions in sections of St Andrew this month.
The initiative, being executed by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), seeks to complement the National School Feeding Programme by providing healthy juices and snacks for children utilising locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) is reporting RADA social services officer for Kingston and St Andrew, Brenda Green, as saying the project is the extension of an existing initiative, which will now offer employment.
"This project really ... started some time ago (to) train women how to utilise what they grow, how to generate income, and how to feed their families better. So this JEEP (initiative) is providing employment. We are trying to employ 10 persons," she said.
She stated that the aim is to encourage children to consume more fruits and vegetables, by providing them with nutritious and tasty snack options, and at the same time, support local farmers.
"The objective mainly is to provide nutritious meals focusing on vitamins and minerals. Children have a thing where they don't like to eat vegetable. They say 'it nuh taste good' and so forth, so whatever we are providing we are doing it in such a way that it's attractive to children," Green stated.
Last May, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke told The Gleaner that "the school-feeding programme is going to underpin much of our agricultural thrust this year".
More than 1,200 jobs are to be created in agriculture under the Government's flagship project, the JEEP.
"They are projects that are planned and when the money is in the budget they will be implemented in this financial year," Donovan Stanberry, the permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry, has said.
Information presented in the recently tabled Estimates of Expenditure for the 2012-2013 fiscal year indicates that the Government plans to spend $78 million to create 1,236 agriculture-related jobs.
Included in the list of JEEP projects that have been identified in agriculture is the spending of $14 million to foster the production of fruit juices and liquid eggs for the school-feeding programme.
In the meantime, JIS is reporting that among the items to be provided are bag juices utilising a blend of vegetables such as tomato and carrot, and fruits, "so, therefore, children like bag juice and they find it easier and more attractive to drink the juice than to actually eat the tomato or eat the carrot," Green said.
The juices to be offered initially are plummy pine (tomato and pineapple), plummy carrot (June plum and carrot) and carrot pine (carrot and pineapple). The juices will be changed from time to time as the fruits are seasonal.
Fruit plates, fruit cups and carrot and banana cupcakes will also be provided to the children.
The project will kick off in three primary schools in St Andrew, namely, New Providence and St Francis Primary as well as Swallowfield Primary and Junior High.
"Basically, what we are doing now is putting in the infrastructure ... and they will require training so that persons will be able to manage whatever machines we have so things can run smoothly," Green told JIS News.
She said that while some 10 persons will be employed initially, the number is expected to increase over time.
JEEP is one of the strategies of the Government to respond to chronic unemployment among some Jamaicans, particularly those in the lower socio-economic groups, persons with special needs, as well as those with low skill levels.
A total of $6 billion has been earmarked for phase two of the programme to be spent on projects in the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, Labour and Social Security, and Housing. Projects will also be executed through HEART Trust/NTA, the National Housing Trust and RADA, among others.
An estimated 35,000 persons will be employed during Phase II of JEEP.