A CHILD’S RIGHT TO ADEQUATE FOOD

John looked back on his school days.   Who would have thought he would amount to anything?   Many days he went to school hungry and could only concentrate on the rumble in his belly.  Thank God when break time came.  Miss would always look out for him and give him something even if it were just bulla cake.   At least now he could hear what was being taught. He especially looked forward to a cooked lunch when the school had leftovers and Miss gave him without payment.   He still enjoys those types of food: stew peas and rice, curry goat with green bananas.   That would hold him till next day, since oftentimes there was no dinner to eat at home and he subsisted on the mangoes and other fruit he picked on the way home from Mas Eddy’s tree.  Nowadays, children are not as fortunate as properties are fenced around with security.

“If only there was a regular breakfast on mornings back then, he would have done so much better at school” he reminisced.   This is why he now gets so much pleasure watching the children enjoy their school breakfast meal.  Since last year, he had been supporting the breakfast programme at his alma mater.   As he stood and watched the children gratefully eating their dumplings and sardines, he felt a sense of peace to know the he could make a difference.   No child should have to suffer from lack of adequate food as he had.

No Child should Go Hungry

The right to be free from hunger and malnutrition is a fundamental human right of every woman, man, youth and child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) addresses the need for adequate food, and directly calls for nutritional well-being of the child and the inclusion of clean drinking water in consideration of health.  The human right of the child demands an environment appropriate for physical and mental development.

The general concept of adequate food can be broken down into several elements:

  1. The food supply should be adequate, which means that a variety of types of foodstuffs should be commonly available (nationally, in local markets and, ultimately, at the household level) and people should have the means to actually obtain the available food and resources i.e. they have a right to work for wages;
  2. The food supply should be culturally acceptable (fit in with the prevailing food or dietary culture);
  3. The available supply should cover overall nutritional needs in terms of quantity (energy) and quality (it should provide all the essential nutrients, including micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals);
  4. The food supply should be safe (free of toxic elements and contaminants) and of good quality (in terms of, for example, taste and texture).

Role of School Feeding

Governments are responsible for providing access to adequate food to eliminate hunger, malnutrition and starvation. Governments must assure citizens of accessibility, availability and security of food and water. Availability includes the presence of food or means of production of food in a community, school or household.  One of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted in September 2000 by global leaders from 189 countries was to reduce hunger 50% by the year 2015.  Many of the hungry in Jamaica are school children.

At the Global Child Nutrition Forum (GCNF) in July, 2006 in Los Angeles, delegates from participating countries signed a resolution that identified the following:   “Freedom from hunger is the right of every child”; “School Feeding should be recognized, supported and used as an essential resource for eliminating hunger and advancing the health and education of children”.  Delegates at the GCNF committed to “Mobilize stakeholders and partners to ensure that our governments promote the nutritional well being of all children”.

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