Maintaining public awareness about the importance of nutrition has been a “lifelong” mission of the Grenada Food and Nutrition Council (GFNC) since it was established 40 years ago.
Grenadians joined the Council in celebrating its 40th anniversary and participated in Nutrition Week 2020 virtual activities, which got underway on Tuesday (June 23) under the theme ‘Live Smart, play your part, Healthy Family Living’.
The Grenadian Voice notes some of the statutory body’s achievements during four decades of dedication to the health and well-being of citizens.
From revising the national Food Based Dietary Guidelines under the theme “Healthy Choices for Healthy Living Guidelines for Grenadians” to developing and implementing the National School Nutrition Policy in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Health, the council continues to monitor food and nutrition programmes throughout the nation.
The council takes a holistic approach to its responsibilities to serve as Grenada’s specialised technical food and nutrition resource, and provide advisory and coordinating services to multi-sectoral bodies. A draft Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy is in the works, while training continues for care supervisors, employees and nurses in infant and young child feeding settings.
Training is a fundamental part of the Council’s history. In 2003, for example, as part of its support for the Ministry of Agriculture’s Food Security Programme, the Council conducted sessions in preparing pigeon peas, cassava, dasheen, calaloo, christophene, breadfruit, eggplant and several local fruits for agriculture district officers, prison officers and personnel in the School Feeding Programme.
Monitoring requires surveys, which help the Council to identify, assess and define food and nutrition problems in Grenada, especially among the vulnerable groups. These include the annual day care survey and the pre-school surveys, which are carried out every four years.
In 2001, for example, the Nutritional Assessment Survey was conducted in government and government-assisted day care centres. It showed the highest prevalence of underweight children was in Saint Andrew, while the highest rate of overweight children was in Saint George.
In 2002, the GFNC took the height and weight measurements of 227 children attending 15 day care centres, which showed 6.6% were undernourished, 5.7% were of small stature and 5.3% were overweight.
The council also assesses elderly citizens residing in government and government supported geriatric homes, a service that was introduced in 2017.
The outreach is witnessed through the popular annual National Secondary Schools Nutrition Quiz, the Curious Little Hands in the Kitchen summer classes for seven to 12-year olds, the quarterly Evening in the Kitchen for adolescents and adults, as well as participation in local and community events.
There are other initiatives in which the Council reaches particular groups. In June 2003, for example, a ‘Nutrition Fortnight’ was observed under the theme ‘Feeding the child is feeding for the future – Start Now’ and provided mothers with fact sheets on breast feeding, complementary feeding and anaemia.
Counselling services date back to the 1990s, when monthly nutrition counseling sessions were introduced in health centres for patients living with chronic diseases. Currently, this service is provided at 11 clinics, as well as the Council’s office on Upper Lucas Street, Saint George’s for persons who may have challenges accessing the public facilities.
In its role to provide nutrition counseling, the Council has stepped up as Grenada copes with the coronavirus pandemic by increasing education programmes that guide the population in the use of local foods. The focus of Nutrition Week 2020 is on healthy family lifestyles through diet and exercise despite the challenges of COVID-19. This is a focus that the Council will sustain.
Looking ahead, executive secretary Lydia Browne hopes for “a permanent home for the Council, so that people can have easy access to our services.” The Council, which falls under the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, “will enhance training sessions in the use of locally produced foods,” to support the Ministry’s food security strategy, she said, and “implored everyone to keep COVID-19 safe.”
This year the children’s Curious Little Hands in the Kitchen summer cooking classes will be done via a virtual medium on Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 14to 31. Parents are encouraged to look for more information on the GFNC Facebook page.
Counseling services are available by telephone and WhatsApp.
“Support information is shared through emails, as we work to create a safe space for employees and clients. We are anticipating returning to community clinics to service persons with chronic diseases and others, at the beginning of July, on regularly scheduled days and by appointment,” she said. Recipes and food preparations that are normally done in community settings are videotaped and shared on Facebook; some are available on the Ministry of Agriculture Facebook page.
Commitment to its vision of ‘A nation of healthy, food secure people’ has been maintained by the following Grenadians who served as executive secretary:
- Candia Alleyne Campton, 1980- 83
- Winifred Telesford (interim), 1983-84
- Maria R Noel, 1984-95
- Betty Finlay, 1995-2011
- Stephanie Simpson (acting), 2011-12
- Marcia Cameron, 2012-14
- Norma Purcell (acting), 2014-15
- Lydia Browne, 2015- present.