The Little Bay Primary & Infant School is a small yet high-spirited institution located in the rural parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica. They aim to provide the perfect learning environment for all their students and to cater to every single one of their educational and social needs.
Due to its location and size, Little Bay Primary & Infant faces many challenges with obtaining resources from the government, which affects its ability to fulfill its mission. Consequently, the school is also affected by the issue of food security in Jamaica.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food security is defined as “A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
In Jamaica, the government implemented the National Food And Nutrition Security policy to address Jamaica’s food security concerns. This policy outlines an action plan that includes strategies and frameworks to be used for improving food security on the island. The policy’s overall goal is to ensure that citizens have continued access to adequate supplies of safe foods to provide a nutritionally balanced diet and in doing so, achieve and maintain health and nutritional well-being.
Food security is affected by factors such as low income, low land utilization, food contamination, food hoarding, food price increases, and food shortages. For these reasons, a country needs to implement effective strategies to reduce the effects of these issues. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate worldwide food insecurity, policies guided by the four (4) elements of food security will result in overall positive changes.
The Jamaican food security policy is also guided by these four (4) elements, and seeks to aid as many communities as possible. Despite the government’s efforts, there are a few shortcomings of the policy that result in the neglect of some rural communities. One such community is that of Little Bay, the host community of the Little Bay Primary & Infant School in Westmoreland.
The four pillars of food security are:
Availability refers to the quality, quantity, and diversity of a country’s food supply. To ensure food security in Jamaica, the government must develop policies to regulate the collection and trade of food sources, manage natural resources, and develop sustainable farming systems.
Access to food depends on social, economic, and political factors. It involves equitable distribution, affordability, and proper market infrastructure. In other words, access to food speaks to a household’s ability to acquire the resources necessary for obtaining nutritious food.
Biological utilization refers to people’s socioeconomic standing which determines how they might prepare and use food to improve nutrition and health, and as an energy source.
Stability is concerned with food security over a long time, regardless of environmental, economic, or social changes at the regional and local levels.
In a bid to sustain themselves, the Little Bay Primary & Infant school has taken the initiative to grow a vegetable garden and start a chicken farm to provide food security for their students. These initiatives stand on the four pillars of food security, as they have significantly improved food availability, stability, access, and utilization at the institution.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool used to measure and track worldwide hunger levels. According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Jamaica has a total score of 7.0 and ranks 35th out of 121 countries listed on the index. In basic terminology, the average Jamaican is not starving and can obtain nutritious food daily (at least one meal per day).
Nevertheless, food security in Jamaica is a topic of constant discussion mainly because of the island’s geographical location, inflation, and unemployment level. Jamaica is located within the Caribbean region, which experiences seasonal hurricanes and other natural disasters. These natural disasters impact access, availability, and production of food in Jamaica. For a small, rural entity like Little Bay Primary School, the effects of these disasters on food security can prove to be catastrophic.
Another major factor that negatively impacts food security in Jamaica is the constantly rising cost of food. Basic food items and ingredients increase in costs several times per year, such as chicken, flour and cooking oil. This also leads to a price increase of all byproducts made with these ingredients, which cover a wide range of staples in the Jamaican diet.
The constantly rising cost of food in Jamaica led to the Ministry of Agriculture somewhat unsuccessfully launching the “grow what you eat, eat what you grow” campaign to encourage Jamaicans to start backyard gardens.
The most important action that can be taken towards improving Jamaica food security is enforcing strict laws and policies for more people to eat what they grow and grow what they eat. This self-sufficient approach should be embraced by the government and local farmers, as well as at the household level. More people should take up the responsibility of planting food crops in their backyards, gardens, flower pots, and the like.
The farming projects at Little Bay Primary school offer a great example of this type of self-sufficiency that leads to greater food security. By eating what they grow and growing what they eat, the school has provided a way of guaranteeing food for the long term, and can focus its resources on improving its educational programs.
Another course of action that can be taken, and one that would propel the previous measure,is the restriction of the mass importation of food products from overseas. This action would increase citizens’ reliance on locally produced foods, thus leading to improvements in the agricultural sector and lessening the public’s need for imported goods, whilst also encouraging self-sufficiency.
A measure that Jamaica’s Ministry of Agriculture has taken that could actually support the practicality of this is their partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which they embarked on in 2022. This partnership is aimed at increasing food security in Jamaica through the introduction of a food loss and waste reduction program that would help to extend the shelf-life of produce, enhance farm and household cash flows, and reduce post-harvest loss.
Although some steps are being taken, it is evident that more needs to be done, and especially at the micro level, as many rural communities and institutions are still overlooked in the government’s action plans for improving food security in Jamaica.
In an effort to remedy the effects of uncertain food security in Jamaica, Little Bay Primary has embarked on a Jamaica food security project spearheaded by the principal, Mr. King, and Michele Guy Syne who is the founder of the Seven Sisters Holistic Healing Institute. With the help of a user-friendly website developed by Jomo Barnett (a member of My Jamaican Tour Guide), a successful food security campaign was launched and aims to raise donations totaling $30,000 USD. These donations referred to as ‘tithes’, which total over $16,000 USD as of the writing of this article, will continue to assist with purchasing and raising chickens to supply the school’s canteen and feed the children.
Guided by the four pillars of food security, the school also intends to sell chickens to local supermarkets to ensure that there is a continuous cash flow into the project. Each donation received brings Little Bay Primary School and the community a step closer to improving food security in Jamaica, as the chicken farm flourishes and sustains the school.
If you would like to donate to the Little Bay Primary & Infant school, you may contribute tithes through the Seven Sisters Holistic Healing Institute. Join the My Jamaican Tour Guide mailing list for updates on projects and movements like this in Jamaica.