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Aug 15, 2023

A New Healthy Belize Diet Being Promoted in Schools

Several key ministries in the government are working in partnership to introduce a healthier diet to primary school children in the Belize District, as a pilot project that will eventually be expanded to other districts. The Healthy Habits, Healthy Schools, Healthy Belize project involves a gradual decrease and elimination of sugary drinks on school grounds. It’s all geared towards promoting healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes, with a goal to reduce the statistics on health-related challenges. The initiative becomes all the more imperative, based on survey information that determined that a growing number of children between ages thirteen and fifteen – almost thirty-six percent – are obese, and that about ninety-three percent of students consume one or more sweetened drinks each day, which contributes to the problem. Today, the ministries of Health and Education held a media breakfast and there were some interesting information forthcoming. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Eighteen primary schools in the Belize District will be the first among Belize’s learning institutions where a healthy diet project will be promoted as a multi-sectoral initiative to curb the growing number of obesity and eventual health issues among schoolchildren.


Fidel Cuellar

Dr. Fidel Cuellar, Deputy Director, Public Health & Wellness

“We’re not learning how to eat in the most healthiest of ways, and we know that because our children are having issues with obesity, being overweight. They’re having other chronic health issues like hypertension, diabetes, and they grow up to be adults who really have a lot of these health problems. So, what we are saying is that we would like to be able to intervene in such a way that we will help to ensure that the future of Belize will be healthier.”


Outside of the school setting, specially-prepared, healthy foods are not as easily accessible and affordable, but Deputy Director of Public Health and Wellness, Dr. Fidel Cuellar says there are ways around that issue. You can prepare the food yourself the way you would for a family member with a chronic illness.


Dr. Fidel Cuellar   

“If you have a family member, for example, who has to eat a certain way because they’re hypertensive or diabetic, usually what they eat is healthier, and that should be encouraged within the family as well. Instead of just adding more salt to it, leave it the way it is. So there are different little things that you can do and these are what we’re trying to begin to instill in our kids.”

But old habits die hard and especially eating habits. Nutritionist at the Ministry of Health, Robin Daly-Faber says the approach will have to be a gradual one.


Robin Daly-Faber

Robin Daly-Faber, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health & Wellness

“We want it to be gradual because we understand the challenges that are in place for creating enabling healthy, enabling environments. We understand that it will take some time. People are accustomed to unhealthy eating. People are accustomed to eating foods high in sugar, fat and salt. It will take some time for the schools to be at that level where we say, well, this school is definitely transformed. They are serving full healthy options now. Soft drinks or sugary drinks are not sold in schools. So it will take some time, but we have to take small steps to gradually get schools thinking like that and actually doing the behavior change that’s required.”


Cuellar points out that understanding the sources of nutrition is also important.


Dr. Fidel Cuellar

“We also have to understand that we can get the proteins from non-animal sources as well. People are of the belief that we have to eat some type of dairy product, some type of animal product, to get protein, and that’s not true. You can get good quality protein from beans, from rice, from vegetables.”


The ministries of Education and Agriculture will also be part of the process and Daly-Faber says there are some schools that have already adapted the initiative and applying it on their grounds. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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