Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis at last night’s FNM drive-in rally at the Carnival grounds.
Photo: Racardo Thomas/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
IN A bid to eliminate childhood hunger, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis last night announced his administration would implement a universal school meals programme in the public school system if re-elected.
The plan would provide free breakfast, lunch and snacks for all students in the government school system.
Billed as a huge announcement ahead of last night’s Free National Movement drive-in rally, the programme will be offered to families regardless of income.
Dr Minnis described it not only as a means of providing nutritious meals for children in a nation where obesity is a challenge, but as a tool to boost savings in families where there is more than one child.
Those in primary school and high school will be eligible for the initiative.
The FNM would roll out the programme over a five-year period to ensure it is well funded and properly designed for sustainability, Dr Minnis said.
Vegan options will be available along with the inclusion of locally grown and produced food products.
“Many children go to school each day hungry,” he told FNM supporters at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre. “Their parents do not have the money to provide them with enough to eat. I came from the inner city, from the ghetto. I know.
“There are school lunch programmes to help those most in need. However, so much more is necessary for so many more children. The FNM has decided to be even bolder.
“If and when re-elected we will launch the universal school meals programme and this programme will provide nutritionally balanced free breakfast, lunch and snack to all school children in government operated education systems regardless of family income.
“This programme will be available to every child in government operated school systems throughout the country. We are making it universal so there is no stigma attached to any child getting food.”
Dr Minnis said the programme will be optional so parents who would want to continue to prepare their child’s lunch and snacks may do so.
“There will also be a vegan option and the programme will be careful in dealing with food allergies. We will significantly draw on Bahamian food products.
“We will significantly use Bahamian fish, poultry and meats. We will significantly use Bahamian grown fruits and vegetables and this programme will help grow our agricultural and fisheries sectors while also providing nutrition to all children in government operated school systems free of charge.
“To help us create this initiative we will work with Bahamian food programmes, chefs, nutritionists and medical experts.
“Obesity is a major problem in our society. We need to stop the amount of sugary drinks and fatty foods our children are drinking and eating. We want to help our children develop better eating habits, drawing on more organic and locally grown foods here in The Bahamas and this new programme is an investment in our children.
“It is an investment in our future. This is an investment in their future and our future.”
Dr Minnis said the initiative was about lessening the burden on hardworking families while helping children focus on learning and not on where their next meal will come from.
“Hungry and insufficient nutrition affects a child’s ability to concentrate and ability to learn. Better health and nutrition allow children to learn and perform better and this programme will relieve parents of having to budget for lunch.
“This represents a significant savings for homes with more than one child. This will be a significant contribution to eliminating childhood hunger and childhood obesity.
“The programme will benefit the local economy.”
Before he left the stage, Dr Minnis continued his criticisms of the Progressive Liberal Party.
He said the choice was clear regarding who Bahamians ought to choose when they head to the polls on September 16.
Dr Minnis said Bahamians should re-elect the FNM because the PLP and its leader Philip “Brave” Davis want power to take care of party supporters.