PLENARY SESSION: REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH OUTCOMES - CASE STUDY PRESENTATION: Katherine Gray-Donald, McGill University
Putting CARICOM Food Security Research into Action (Katherine Gray-Donald, Leroy Phillip, Isabella Granderson, and Chandra Madramootoo)
A challenge facing policy makers, practitioners and scientists dealing with global food security is making food available and accessible for the health of current and future world population. In CARICOM countries, both rising regional food imports and increasing rates of Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases related to diet and obesity are causing an important economic burden for the region.
Researchers at The University of the West Indies, and McGill University in Canada, in collaboration with regional and local institutions, and funding from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), are taking an innovative "farm to fork" approach, promoting locally grown farm produce to enhance diet quality and diet diversity for consumers. The aim is to link the enhanced agricultural production to school lunch program provisioning to improve the food offerings.
From a nutritional evaluation of 509 primary school children in Trinidad Tobago and in St Kitts and Nevis, we found virtually no stunting, but 22% are overweight or obese. In St Kitts, 75% of children from food insecure households had no vegetable intake on a given day; food secure children fared marginally better (66%). Anemia was present in a number of children. Dietary interventions in school lunch programmes have been introduced to increase vegetable and fruit intake, increase iron intake and reduce sugar intake.
The project is addressing problems of crop productivity arising from water scarcity in the dry season. Results of drip irrigation interventions in St. Kitts show major increases in yields of pumpkin and watermelon, and substantial improvement in the productivity and diversity of crops grown by small farmers. Conservation (as silage) of drought tolerant forages (sorghum and mulatto grass) for small ruminant production in St. Kitts and Nevis has been introduced to increase the availability of mutton.
The current school meals program in intervention vs. control schools is being investigated to improve child health outcomes and provide a market opportunity to increase economic returns for small holder farmers in CARICOM. With the implementation of new school lunch menus based on local food habits and available foods and agricultural innovations, farmers' supply intervention schools with tomatoes, string beans, carrots, watermelon, pumpkin and mutton. Ensuring a regular supply for some foods remains a challenge to overcome.
Enhancing food intake of children through local production will be evaluated in terms of food production increases, foods provided to children in schools and changes in indicators of nutritional health.