by Altaf Mohammed, the CREN Team
Editor’s note: In 2015, The University of the West Indies (UWI) Children’s Centre launched the Caribbean Food Revolution, an initiative to promote healthy eating nationally. CREN Team member Altaf Mohammed recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes, an educator of The UWI Children’s Centre and the creator of the project, about the successes and future plans for the Caribbean Food Revolution.
CREN: What was your motivation behind the Caribbean Food Revolution?
Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes: In September 2015 I started this initiative, the Caribbean Food Revolution. As an Early Childhood Educator I work with fussy eaters every day and I saw this as an opportunity to develop healthy eating habits in children from an early age using art as the medium of expression. I know that children love visual art, performance and poetry and I decided to use that to promote a healthier lifestyle.
CREN: What message do you want to spread through the Caribbean Food Revolution?
Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes: In Trinidad and Tobago we have a lot to offer with our local food and healthy meals, even from the Early Childhood level. With the exhibition I aimed to foster healthy lifestyles and eating habits from preschool to adulthood by building bridges and connecting different stakeholders who share my similar vision. The aims of the Caribbean Food Revolution were to achieve greater awareness of the importance of eating local healthy foods, to create avenues for open communication and dialogue with professionals in the field of health, nutrition and wellness, to develop local nutritious recipes and to help children and families make healthier choices.
CREN: Could you tell us about the past activities within the Caribbean Food Revolution?
Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes: There were two (2) events that occurred thus far: Healthy Bites in 2015 and the Food and Art Exhibition in 2017. Healthy Bites looked at healthy eating for children in “bite-sized” form. I found that it was appealing to children as the portions were not more than they would be capable of eating. The Caribbean Food Revolution looked at sustaining the local food stock, promoting what we have and utilising it.
CREN: Can you tell us about the Food and Art Exhibition on 10th May, 2017?
Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes: The event showcased seventy (70) preschoolers from The UWI Children’s Centre and surrounding centres in the St. George East district. Hundreds of persons attended. Attached with this innovation is a comfort relief programme, which was started in 2015 and aims to assist a child or children in need. The exhibition was a triumph given the large crowd at The UWI School of Education.
Individuals were greeted by an innovative display of artwork, all created by our preschoolers in the St. George East district. We displayed three-dimensional replicas of banana trees, eggplant made from socks, a pumpkin patch made of plasticine modelling clay and a two-dimensional representation of dasheen. We had food inspired collages, poetry and the complete artistic showcase highlighting the work of the seventy (70) preschoolers. The exhibition also featured the ‘Farm to Table’ approach. This is where we created and ate the meals from our local food crops, grown and reaped by our preschoolers. Other attractions at our exhibition included professionals in their fields conducting food demos, health screenings such as vision testing, body mass index (BMI) scoring, blood pressure testing, dental examination and sampling booths of the food products.
CREN: What are your future plans for the Caribbean Food Revolution?
Mrs. Rena Jangeesingh-Nunes: I would like to pilot the project among three to five (3-5) year olds across the Caribbean. I have already formed a partnership with the University of the Southern Caribbean to carry forward this initiative. With the diversity of indigenous plants and cuisine, plus our Centre’s drive to reach a wide audience, this will offer an even broader vision for healthy lifestyle promotion. My vision is to continue this work in Trinidad and Tobago and then expand to the different islands as this innovation grows and evolves.