The Ministry of Health, a sector in charge of developing health policies, is taking steps to develop a pack of food-related health policies so as to assure healthier diets for Ghanaians – amidst rising diet-related non-communicable diseases. The Ministry on Thursday September 30 2021, convened a consultative meeting with several stakeholders. Delivering his opening remarks at the meeting, Dr. Emmanuel Odame, Director of PPME of the Ministry of Health indicated that the meeting will offer the stakeholders an opportunity to contribute to “the food policy package for healthier diets initiative”.
The meeting also received updates from some projects generating research evidence in this area. This included an innovative project referred to as MEALS4NCDs Prevention. The project is not providing “meals” for consumption, but Measurement Evaluation, Accountability and Leadership Support (MEALS) for NCDs prevention. Presenting data from this project, the researchers showed that the Ghana School Feeding Programme was doing well in a number of areas, but that it needed to improve on several other areas. The revelations and accompanying recommendations from the researchers were arrived at after a careful analysis of Food Provisioning Policies and Programmes in Ghanaian public sector basic schools. Among others, the researchers assessed the policies to find the type and details of nutrition standards/guidelines applied. They said there was opacity regarding details about nutrition standards (e.g. portion sizes, food-group inclusions and exclusions; nutrient levels). On paper, the policy and programme prioritized provision of nutritious meals, and purchasing of local foods for school meals, as well as nutrition training for catering personnel.
Areas needing improvement included details of nutrition standards/guidelines, food safety and food emergencies school meal environment, sanctions for non-compliance. The researchers were worried about the lack of attention to nutrition standards for sold and other competitive food and beverages. They recommended introduction of regulations for sold foods and beverages during school hours, application of nutrition standards/guidelines to sold and competitive foods, and assurance of compliance or sanctions for non-compliance be made clear.
On the issues of wellness promotion and food and beverage marketing, which the school feeding policy and programme did not address, the MEALS4NCDs Research Team recommended that modeling of healthy eating behaviors by staff, regulating marketing within the immediate school environment, marketing in curricula and other educational materials.
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