Last Wednesday was observed as World Food Day. It focused one’s mind on one of the big issues in nutrition today - obesity.
All the introspections of the day brought one to the conclusion that obesity is a problem for both the haves and the have-nots. It is causing serious health concerns for families and nations. One has come to the realisation that what one eats coupled with one’s lifestyle determines one’s health status. In other words, the food we consume would determine how frequent our visit to the doctor is.
In a fast-moving world of fast foods and out-of-home cooking, one of the agenda for active discussion, therefore, has been what to eat and what not to drink as experts keep shifting the goal post for us. Today, a glass of red wine is good for the heart, they would tell us. Then comes tomorrow and it would have changed to alcohol is not good for one’s health. Yesterday it was eggs are unhealthy in our diets, today it is one can eat up to three eggs in a week so long as one takes out the yolk.
Unfortunately, in the name of busy work schedules, families are no longer eating together at a table with food cooked and served from their own kitchen. Parents stop by, on their way home to pick “take-away” dinners ordered from the comfort of their mobile phones. Children have been introduced to so much junk food they prefer the oil-soaked menus with the fatty cuts of meat and detest the balanced menus prepared at home.
School feeding programme
Thank God, however, for the school feeding programme. If done well with organic locally produced food items, we would gradually be introducing our children to home-cooked nutritious foods. We have some of the best organic food crops grown here on our soil and they are relatively cheap compared to organic foods sold elsewhere. We spend scarce foreign exchange importing refined rice and sugar which the producers themselves are running away from.
Coincidentally, as we celebrated World Food Day, a two-day nutrition training programme was on-going in the Central region organised by the Ghana School Feeding Secretariat. It was supported by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with the aim to engage caterers of the school feeding programme.
According to news reports, the training programme was used to sensitise the caterers and introduce them to the preparation and serving of gari fotor, fortified with vegetables and soybeans on the school feeding menu. Though high in carbohydrate, some of us would eat gari anytime due to its high fibre content. That is why I would support the introduction of gari fotor with as many vegetables and beans to make it even more nutritious for our children.
The School Feeding Programme in many ways is a blessing to the country. If the children enjoy the varieties served at school, no doubt they would influence their parents to prepare the same with even better variations at home.
It was at boarding school at the age of nine that some of us first tasted “Tom Brown” and corn grits porridge. It was at the same boarding school that one got introduced to gari and beans, gari fotor and gari soakings with groundnuts and milk. All those nutritious servings in the dining hall and in our pantries have lived with us to our old age and we have in turn passed them on to our families with even more variations.
With World Food Day on our minds, let the school meals programme introduce our children to healthy organic homegrown foods that would build their bodies and nurture their brains. The programme managers should insist on menu innovation by the caterers and get them assessed on the quality of innovations introduced in their menu plans. We could fall on the children to do their end of term assessments for us.
World Food Day indeed comes to remind us of the importance of good nutrition and food safety, especially for our growing children. We should all be made aware of the dangers of out-of-home cooking and begin to say no to fast and instant foods. They provide very little or no nutrients to our bodies. We should help to build a nation of healthy young people and say no to foods that would contribute to obesity and malnourishment.