Nobesity tackles sale of sugary and unhealthy food in schools

Monitoring of policies that regulate the sale of sugary and unhealthy foods in school canteens needs to be enforced. 

So says Nobesity Samoa Coordinator, Visceta Meredith, following their team’s visit to schools where they noticed that canteens are still selling unhealthy foods despite numerous feedback to the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) on this issue. 

“Our big question is who is responsible,” she said. “Is it the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (M.E.S.C.) or is it Ministry of Health because that shows there isn’t any strong partnership between these two ministries who are supposed to be the ones behind promoting good health in kids.

She said the Government, through the M.O.H. and M.E.S.C., need to work together to help the children, who are Samoa’s future. 

“We cannot say that we have policies already lined up in nice big folders, sitting on office shelves, who is doing the monitoring?  That is always our question when we go into schools and find that they are still selling food that are not good for the kids.

“These canteens are selling coffee, noodles and other junk foods, which is not good for the children. 

“There is increasing concerns of childhood obesity among children in the Pacific, including Samoa and we need to help address this.” 

She said M.O.H. needs to engage with Nobesity Samoa, especially in the promotion of nutritious meals and other healthy living habits. 

“They were just involved the first year, but I think their response is not enough manpower in the ministry to assist, which is okay for us we can do it.

“When we go out to the schools, we come back, we give the ministry the feedback, they action on the feedback. I tell them these are the foods that shouldn’t be sold at school, but that’s the thing, I am not too sure whether it’s M.E.S.C. or M.O.H. that look into the monitoring of these policies.” 

Ms. Meredith also raised the issue of off-street vendors who enter school compounds and sell their products, which needs to be stopped. 

“These people (vendors) all they think about is making money with ice blocks, sugary stuff. There is a canteen in the school compound and I don’t know why these people are allowed to enter the compound and sell their products. 

“Schools need to be strict with not allowing children to go out of the school compound and buy from outside because it is not good for them. These are the things we pick out and report back to the M.O.H.”

Ms. Meredith said the school curriculum in Samoa needs to incorporate a subject centered on healthy living and habits. 

She said for Nobesity Samoa, part of their advocacy work is going out, raising awareness and providing feedback for the ministry to help address this problem, but to make a change, it needs collaborative action. 

Nobesity Samoa is hosting the “Kids Kicking Obesity” awareness event tomorrow at the St Joseph’s College, Alafua, which allows Government and business leaders, relevant ministries, and notable individuals to get behind the kids of Samoa and help inspire and encourage them to make a change. 

Registration opens at 8am. 

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