By Monique Washington
Smiling faces, hot food and happy students were all at the official opening of the Joycelyn Liburd Primary School (JLPS) cafeteria on Monday, the last government school on the island to open a cafeteria, a moment the principle of the school Barbra Hendrickson calls a “proud and historic moment for JLPS.”
Approximately 124 students ate a nutritious lunch at in the cafeteria. The cafeteria, which also doubles as an auditorium, seats 80 students at any given time. It has been outfitted with new utensils and equipment. Five cooks and one cleaner are on staff.
The cost of lunch at the school is EC $5 a day.
“We have been waiting for this moment a long time,” Hendrickson told The Observer. “It was a dream come true when they began breaking ground for the cafeteria. It was a lot of work getting sorted out because it is the first day but it was worth the effort.”
Director of School Meals Earlene Maynard, witnessed the distribution of the first lunches and explained the important of healthy eating to children and the Schools Meals Program.
“School meals play a very important role in the development of our children’s education,” Maynard explained. “There is a strong correlation between nutrition and learning if our children are eating well, chances are their memories are going to be enhanced, learning is going to be enhanced, they are going to be stronger, they are going to be sick less often.”
Maynard said school cooks will incorporate many local foods into the children’s diet. Meat from the abattoir and many locally grown fruits and vegetables will be used to prepare the meals.
“We need to pass on the message that it is important to eat what we grow and grow what we eat,” Maynard explained. “It will cut down on the amount of pesticides the children get from the foods. Health matters.Health is the most important. If you are not healthy you cannot be productive even if you are an adult.”
Maynard said she was excited about the opening and noted there were challenges in bringing the kitchen to fruition.
“We were looking forward to it (the cafeteria),” Maynard said.“We had to overcome quite a number of challenges because we had to make sure that we got everything right. It is the last one (cafeteria) that we are delivering and we wanted to make sure that we are delivering something that was of a high standard .Today is an exciting moment for those of us that were part of the process. It is a proud moment that we can now serve meals at the Joycelyn Primary School.”
Michael Henville head chef in charge of the school meals program noted that he was very happy to be involved with the opening of the new kitchen at Gingerland.
“This has been a long time coming. I’m excited to see all these happy children come in with smiles and shocked faces when they get a plate of food is really nice,”Henville said.
Principle Education officer Palsey Wilkinpointed out the import link between nutrition and education.
“I am very pleased and very happy to see the children eating and enjoying a hot meal,” Wilkin said. “Nutrition is very important. If our children are not properly nourished,no matter what we do in the class room it is going to be all in vain.”
Wilkin complimented the principal and staff of the JLPS and thanked the Nevis Island Administration, Education Department, the Ministry of Finance and Marion Lesscot for bringing the cafeteria to fruition.