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Cabinet approves healthy juices: Less sugar for students

Sunday, January 8, 2017

From today, the School Feeding Programme (SFP) will serve students juices that contains less sugar.

This decision was taken by Cabinet on Thursday.

Confirmation came from Education Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday, as he gave some of the measures his ministry will embark upon for the new school term in 2017.

There are 455 primary and 125 secondary schools in T&T. The country’s student population is approximately 200,000 pupils.

“Only on Thursday at a meeting of Cabinet...Cabinet accepted a recommendation from the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, where we are recommending that excessive sugars should be removed from the students’ diet. The juices the students will be given will have a tremendous reduction of the sugar content,” Garcia said a telephone interview.

He said that the SFP’s chief executive officer Stacy Baron has already been informed of the decision taken by Cabinet, and she gave the assurance that things will be put in place for the new school term.

Garcia said many manufacturers have already started decreasing the level of sugar in their juices, which was a step in the right direction to a healthier lifestyle.

Questioned if the Ministry had any plans on clamping down on school cafeterias selling soft drinks, Garcia said, this matter would have to be discussed.

“Because of the number of those vendors who sell they depend on that for their livelihood. We need to engage them in discussions so that they will see the need to have a reduction of the levels of sugars.”

President of the National Parents Teachers’ Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali said key on its agenda in 2017 for the association would be to lobby for a ban of soft drinks in school.

Ramatali said her association was looking at the health and welfare of the nation’s children as a priority.

“A lot of children now have mental health issues and obesity. The NPTA will be partnering with Ministry of Healthy to look at lifestyle diseases and obesity.”

At the NPTA’s convention in June, Ramatali said these issues will be raised.

“I met with the Ministry of Health before Christmas and I know they have plans and have offered to work with us to reduce and remove sugary drinks from schools…and even from the School Feeding Programme,” Ramatali said.

However, president of the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association Lynsley Doodhai said the matter of banning soft drinks in schools had not been discussed by the union’s executive. Doodhai said several teachers already encourage their students not to consume snacks and drinks which are laced with sugar.


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