EDITORIAL: Eat what we grow
Tue, 03/29/2016 - 12:34am
Barbadians fondly recall late Senator Carmeta Fraser’s often repeated mantra “Food comes first.” With a high food import and health bill, however, it seems we are not getting the message. As we go forward with our development, it is time to reconsider what can be done to encourage a change towards more food production and revolutionising the way we expose children to local foods.
Other Caribbean territories produce fruits and vegetables for their local and export markets. These countries have a sustained, dedicated production mentality that sees them exporting their excess to bring in foreign exchange and utilising available land space to grow crops that their populations consume.
Meanwhile at home, we have agricultural land that is lying fallow, is carved up into housing developments, or is not in use because the scourge of praedial larceny has scared off potential farmers. The reality is we still have an untapped market of 280 000 persons, some of whom seem disinterested in local foods selling at markets. Have Barbadian palates become too sophisticated for ground fare? Has advanced social mobility led to eating out more and preparing less meals?
We need alternatives – and fast – to provide healthier options for ourselves and our children. It is no coincidence that Barbados has a high number of persons suffering from non-communicable diseases, and that one-third of our children are obese or overweight and experiencing conditions or ailments previously considered “adult”.
Perhaps one such way to kick-start a change is to develop a programme that simultaneously addressees the health crisis, lowers the food import bill and ensures children are imparted with necessary skills and knowledge that can take the country forward.
There are many natural advantages of having children of all ages directly involved in agriculture. For one, it allows them to have a sense of “buy-in” through growing their own mini-crops at school and using them to prepare healthy Barbadian meals. In addition, we can put creative, young minds to good use by having them focus on the scientific/technological areas of the field, ensuring sustainable, green and effective solutions. For example, there is a range of technologies that can be applied to revitalise food production – hydroponics, various methods of water harvesting, and the utilisation of wind and solar energy to power small school projects, for example.
Having a dedicated school component combines two subjects – Food and Nutrition, and Science – into practical, hands-on training that make subjects come alive and apply them in ways that are useful to students’ daily and future activities. When we consider that obesity and overweight expose our children to poorer health as adults, it further cements that we must try all available options at our disposals to whet their interests for varying foods.
Let us therefore move towards food production as a core school policy. One of Mrs. Fraser’s passions was showing the many creative ways in which ground provisions, fruits and vegetables can be creatively used; in that vein, any number of delicious treats can be created for local and tourist consumption, and encourage our young people into agriculture, science and food technology.