Food Sustainability and Nutrition in Violence Prevention

Supporting Food Security and Sustainability in Jamaican Youth Violence Prevention

CommunityFoodservicePublic Health
Menu ChangePolicy ChangeProgramming
Food PricesLack of Support in the Professional Culture

At a Glance

  • This case study was brought forward by Patricia Thompson, M.Sc. Nutrition, Executive Director of the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network (JINN).
  • Thompson explains the intervention that was implemented into six elementary schools in Jamaica that impacted the transition of school food to create a positive engagement tool in areas that were high in gang violence for children of school age.
  • Lessons Learnt: Opportunities and accessibility to healthy, local and supportive food programs can create a positive impact outside of school and can carry on to secondary education.

History

The Jamaican Island Nutrition Network is a charity that ensures rights for children to have nutritious food and diets. Their main mission is to “enhance the nutrition environment in Jamaica with special focus on students, student athletes, and youth in schools and related populations by collaborating with strategic partners and coordinating their efforts to enhance student performance and health” (JINN). JINN also advocates for sustainable nutrition programs in schools at multiple levels ranging from civil to community. They help build self-reliance through the use of local resources and skills and supports both environmental conservation and sustainability. In 2019, the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network annual conference had a day dedicated to Nutrition and Violence. There were problems identified through researchers, as well as a participant from the “Violence Prevention Coalition”, regarding the lack of nutrition and feeding education in programs and throughout school.

Pepsi fridge replaced with fresh fruit and water to replace sodas.

Intervention

In 2020, The Ministry of National Security (MNS) had begun its second summer program through social intervention and community engagement that was implemented into six elementary school in Jamaica. “It was known that the likelihood of being recruited into local gangs which operate within the space is high at this age” (Thompson, 2020). This program was implemented in hopes to increase the positive impact and engagement in students and help their transition to secondary school become smoother while avoiding gang violence. This program contained elements of nutrition, music, sports, and technology. The nutrition program consisted of donations from the distributor sector including packaged food and drinks. The Ministry of National Security called upon the Jamaican Island Nutrition Network (JINN) to help review and provide modifications to the current nutrition program that was implemented by the MNS. When reviewing the menu, JINN followed certain criteria to ensure the affordability of the program due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Some of which included:

  • Keeping both the menus and food at a low cost…
  • Receiving produce from local farmers within the community…
  • Weighing and measuring students in order to determine their nutritional status…

The overall menu changes that were implemented by JINN were to include local produce from farmers, accept food donations and use these for take home meals and incorporate staple foods that include vegetables for vegetarians that are separate from animal products (see image below). In addition to menu change, JINN supported the suggested policy that was put forward by the Health Coalition of the Caribbean (HCC) to tax sweetened drinks in order to help curb childhood obesity, with the proviso that this tax money can help improve sustainable school nutrition. For example, paying cooks and nutrition professionals to help incorporate more nutritional options into programs such as the Wellness Program in schools. JINN believes that “the children would benefit from better nutrition thereby affecting not only their health status, but academic performance and violence disposition”. Luckily, there are now five ministries of government that have been impacted and will begin to increase opportunities for nutrition professionals in government.

Food for Thought
Are schools within your community sourcing fresh produce from local farmers or farmers markets? If not, why?
What impact can sourcing food through local farms have on both social and environmental sustainability?
What role do nutrition professionals have in ensuring adequate nutrition for school children in school and at home?

Contact Information
R.Nutr. PATRICIA THOMPSON M.Sc. Nutrition PGDip Mgt Studies (UWI)

Executive Director, Jamaica Island Nutrition Network (JINN)
Consultant Nutritionist/Health Promotion Consultant, Jamaica
Credentialed School Nutrition Specialist (SNS)
USA Certified Master Sports Nutritionist, Sports Dietetics (USA)
Phone: 876-977-4561; 876-322-3142
Email: nutritionjamaica@gmail.com
Website:  www.jamaicanutrition.com