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Fyffes Joins Fight Against Child Malnutrition in Belize

Fyffes and the Belize Ministry of Agriculture have announced the signing of a Public Private Partnership (PPP), which “marks a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to address malnutrition among school-age children in Belize”.

The partnership is dedicated to supporting the Bella Vista School and Community Feeding Program, with a specific focus on Bella Vista Primary School.

Malnutrition, particularly in the form of stunting and underweight, has reached alarming prevalence rates within the Stann Creek and Toledo districts, neighbouring communities to Fyffes farms in Belize.

According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 2015, almost 37 per cent of children under five in Stann Creek were malnourished, amounting to 904 children suffering from being underweight, stunting, or wasting.

Recent Ministry of Health data from 2020 revealed that 330 children in Bella Vista and Red Bank were being monitored case by case for stunted and underweight conditions.

Additionally, childhood obesity posed a “significant concern’, with rates of 7 per cent in the Toledo district and 6 per cent in Stann Creek.

The cycle of malnutrition is perpetuated by a lack of food or an improper diet, resulting in increased susceptibility to common childhood ailments and hindering proper growth and development.

Recognising the severity of the issue, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fyffes said they were committed to breaking the cycle through the Bella Vista School and Community Feeding Program.

The school-based feeding programmes have proven to be effective social safety nets, delivering positive outcomes such as improved school attendance, enhanced academic performance, and overall better health for participating children.

The collaboration between Fyffes and the Ministry of Agriculture aims to extend these benefits not only to students but also to their families and the wider community.

In November 2021, Fyffes, the Ministry of Agriculture (Agro-processing Unit), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP), and the Bella Vista School signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding.

This marked the commencement of a school-based pilot programme utilising local bananas to provide nutritious meals to school-age children.

Building on the success of the second phase of the programme, which ran from 1 January to 15 May 2023, Fyffes, in collaboration with the agro-processing unit, will continue producing a banana flour product made from local bananas.

This nutrient-rich supplement will be distributed by Fyffes to local communities, contributing to the sustained improvement of the nutritional status of school-age children.

“Our children, grappling with physical ailments, compromised growth, and recurring sicknesses, face challenges in their development and learning abilities,” said Abelardo Mai, minister of agriculture, food security and enterprises in the Belize government.

“Today, we collectively shoulder the responsibility to break this cycle and pave the way for a brighter and healthier future for our youth.

”The partnership we formalise today between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fyffes is not just an agreement; it is a commitment to change lives” he added.

Talking about this initiative, Caoimhe Buckley, chief corporate affairs officer at Fyffes said: “As the largest employer in Belize we want to enrich the lives of the people who work for us, their families and communities.

”Today’s signing marks our commitment to improve and expand access to nutrition for the children and families of our communities, using our health-giving bananas.”

Source : Fruit Net