By Gerald V. Paul
As the community awaits word on the next UWI Benefit Gala in Toronto, good news has emerged from the Mona Campus in Jamaica: “Mona Campus Services has embarked on an ambitious research project aimed at improving nutrition for more than 200 children, ages 3-6 years, in its neighbouring Mona Commons community.
“The Kitchen Gardening project is expected to provide increased insight into the correlation between nutrition and academic performance amongst children in low-income environments.”
Former acting mayor of Brampton, Jamaica-born Garnett Manning supports the thrust of the program as the founder of Garnett Manning Youth and Leadership Foundation. He noted that people who are hungry usually cannot perform well and tend to be irritable.
He said the project is within international thought on links between nutrition and education and noted the World Bank has reported that not only are malnourished children more prone to diseases but their systems go into survival mode where the body reduces the release of energy to stunt growth and lower thought processing.
Dr. Olivene Burke said the program “may offer an understanding of the economic barriers women face, and the effects on their children.”
Burke noted that through research, they found the performance of students at basic schools in the Mona community was below average with nutritional deficiency possibly a contributing factor.
“Our investigations showed that the kind of food provided by parents for their children did not provide proper nutrition – things such as bag juice and cheese snacks for breakfast.”
“A key element of the Kitchen Gardening project is its holistic approach. Parents and teachers will be pivotal to the project’s success and will assist in tracking the health benefits to the children. Additionally, parents will receive training in ways of improving their child’s nutrition,” Burke said.
The initiative is based on the kitchen or backyard gardening model which has been successful in improving nutrition in other parts of the world. Kitchen gardens will be established in eight basic schools across five communities in the Mona Valley. Vegetables reaped from these gardens will feed into school breakfast and lunch programs, providing a sustainable way to ensure good nutrition.
Meanwhile, Manning said the 12th Annual Rodney Symposium is set for March 20 and 21 at Atlanta University. This is in memory of Dr. Rodney who taught at Mona Campus. “The theme for the symposium is Hungry Nation, Hungry World: Engendering Healthy Sustainable Food Systems.”
The goal is to provide a political and socio-economic framework to find solutions for access to adequate, nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate foods.