The Backstory: Farm to Fork and POSDEVAL

FaN is the translation project arising from two previous IDRC-funded projects: Evaluation of the CARICOM Heads of Government POS Declaration 2014-2017 (POSDEVAL) and Farm to Fork: 2011-2014.

Results from the POSDEVAL revealed that most CARICOM member countries had difficulty implementing the mandates from the POS NCD Summit Declaration. The main areas of weak policy implementation related to mandates regarding schools, communications, and diet.

Key recommendations arising from the POSDEVAL regarding agriculture, food and nutrition included:

a) The need for multi-sectoral actions at all levels of government and society to tackle NCDs;

b) The need to promote healthy living in different settings, such as schools, workplaces and faith-based institutions;

c) Support for marketing of healthy foods, introduction of compulsory standards for nutrition labelling, and instituting a ban on  advertising, sale and promotion of unhealthy foods in schools;

d) Taxation to decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and subsidies to increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables;

e) Building partnerships with civil society and the private sector, and sharing information, experiences and “best practices” more effectively with local and regional stakeholders.

The central elements of the farm-to-fork project were undertaken in St. Kitts-Nevis, and the research sought to transform the existing national universal school lunch program into a viable market opportunity for local smallholder farmers, while serving as a vehicle for improving nutrition outcomes and contributing to obesity prevention in children. The three pillars of the farm to fork school feeding project compromised :

1) agricultural productivity and diversity;

2) procurement of locally grown produce from small holder farmers; and

3) children’s consumption of nutritious school lunch meals based on improved menus redesigned to include enhanced portions of the locally farmed vegetables and fruits.

Results showed that children receiving the nutritionally improved lunch meal consumed more fruits and vegetables, and smallholder farmers benefited economically from access to new markets.

Two key lessons emerged from the findings of the “farm-to-fork” project:

1) Bringing about dietary and behaviour change to improve health outcomes is a significant challenge, but such change is possible through institutional collaboration and commitment, and improvements to existing food systems;

2) Significant barriers to tackling obesity and food insecurity in CARICOM include limited community engagement and knowledge sharing among stakeholders, militating against trust and relationship building.