Students in Saint. Vincent and The Grenadines are now one step closer to accessing healthy and nutritious school meals using locally available fish thanks to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Government of Mexico and the Government of Saint Vincent and The Grenadines.
As part of the resilient school feeding sub-project component of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean”, 8 fisher folk received hands-on training in food safety, specifically addressing issues of seafood safety, personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitizing of work environment, fish handling and spoilage, sensory evaluation, product development and marketing.
As the final instalment of food safety training for primary producers currently being trained under the project, this training was designed to equip fisher folk with the knowledge and tools to meet the standard of supply for healthy fish. Food Safety Trainer, Cylena Andrews emphasised “focusing on the effectiveness of sanitation and personal hygiene are critical areas to consider when preparing fish (and other foods also) for safe human consumption.”
For fishers and fishing organisations, this will widen the scope of available markets for selling their product, which will include supplying the school meals programme and in turn guarantee that students receive the very best quality of this important protein.
Nerissa Gittens Mc Millan, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, speaking about the training programme reaffirms the commitment of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and particularly of her Ministry to seize opportunities presented by the National School feeding program for local farmers and fisher folks. She further points out “The availability of safe, healthy fish for use in the school Feeding programme in our primary schools is a vital component in the quest to introduce healthy eating habits which will last a lifetime”.
FAO’s National Project Coordinator for the initiative, Laura Anthony Browne explains, “Fish is a vital part of our diet, and access to healthy nutritious fish is necessary to ensure that we are able to combat broader health issues like non-communicable diseases and childhood obesity. Last year, the project supported the revision of menus as part of the school feeding programme and trained cooks to use these menus including fish in meals. By training local fisher folk, we can confidently purchase fish that we know is safe for consumption. Thus, giving the best to our students!”
The fisher folk trained under this initiative are part of a larger cohort of 70 farmers and fisher folk who are being trained through the project. Participant in this most recent training- fish vendor, Sharon James shared, “The training was very good for me. I learnt a lot of things that I did not know before, especially how to handle several types of fish. The training will benefit me as I prepare fish for sale and I hope that any further training, I will also be part of it.”
Participants from the various cooperatives and private businesses operating in the fisheries sector will be invited beyond this point to participate in further training activities intended to build business acumen and to promote the further commercialization of the fisheries sector.
Lee Yan is a journalist based in Cebu, Philippines. For the past 10 years, he has worked in the media and writes part-time for the St. Vincent Times.