Christopher Serju, Sunday Gleaner Writer
In keeping with efforts to get Jamaicans to appreciate the importance of eating more locally grown food, the Government will this month turn the spotlight on promoting healthy lifestyle as a key factor in achieving food security and nutrition.
In addition to activities to mark 'Eat Jamaican Day' on Monday, November 25, the Government will partner with stakeholders in agriculture and other sectors to drive home the message to 'Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow' for the entire month, which has been designated 'Eat Jamaican Month 2013'.
The 'Eat Jamaican' ecumenical service will place today at the Portmore New Testament Church of God, Port Henderson Road, St Catherine.
The highlight of the month will be the Eat Jamaican Exposition at King's House on November 25, at which the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) will host a number of events.
These include the Eat Jamaican Awards, launch of an Eat Jamaican Cookbook, Eat Jamaican Farmers Cook-Off Competition, and announcement of the Eat Jamaican Essay Competition,
Throughout the month, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, along with the JAS - which is observing the 10th anniversary of 'Grow What We Eat, Eat What We Grow' campaign - will partner with a number of groups and individuals, including supermarkets and media houses, to promote this message.
Resort areas farmers' markets
In the meantime, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority will be working with the Tourism Linkages Hub to organise farmers' markets in resort areas, with plans also for a parliamentary debate on the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy.
According to Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke, this is in keeping with the country's agricultural strategy of increasing local production, reducing imports where possible, and expanding exports.
However, it will take the concerted effort of Jamaicans from all walks of life to achieve these goals, and Clarke used the occasion of World Food Day on October 16 to urge young people to lead this charge.
"I appeal to you to make a choice to be agents of change and ambassadors for healthy lifestyles through healthy food systems. Get involved in your school environment and garden clubs.
"Plant your own backyard gardens at home and in your communities, eat healthy snacks and meals, and think about a career in agriculture," Clarke declared at the Greater Portmore High School in St Catherine.
Clarke also announced that the Government intends to enact a Food Security Law to ensure the production of a minimum threshold of a selected basket of foods for which there is production capability and national comparative advantage to meet domestic food, nutrition and health goals.
"We wholeheartedly subscribe to the expressed view of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) that raising nutrition levels include enhanced production, marketing and consumption of local vegetables and staple crops such as locally grown yams, sweet potatoes and cassava.
"In other words, part of our solution must be to increase production and productivity of local foods. This cannot be stressed too often.
"And once we have produced locally, we must also aim to consume fresh local produce, which very often are the fruits, vegetables and staples we need for healthy lifestyles."
Also addressing the World Food Day observance, JAS President Norman Grant declared that the provision of healthy, safe and nutritious food on a sustainable basis should be one of the greatest priorities and necessities for all, rather than a privileged few of the global village.
"It is imperative that a sense of solidarity is also built within each ensuing generation to be a brother's keeper in the fight against hunger and to achieve poverty reduction. In order to feed the world, therefore, we must reflect on the concepts of sharing, generosity and cooperation," insisted Grant.
"We must also understand the great role that agriculture has to play and support that it should be given. It is only with one voice that our vision can be realised," added Grant.