5 Ways to Combat Hunger in Trinidad and Tobago

Hunger in Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago, known for its beaches and festive atmosphere, faces a pressing issue that demands attention: hunger. Although hunger has long been a concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it to the forefront of national consciousness.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 20% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago experiences moderate to severe food insecurity. Around 270,000 people are at risk of hunger or missing meals and 9.3% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, impacting their long-term physical and mental development.

5 Ways to Combat Hunger in Trinidad and Tobago

  1. Education: Education plays a vital role in addressing hunger. The Ministry of Education has implemented programs like the School Nutrition Programme, providing breakfast and lunch to underserved students. In 2013, this effort helped 236,983 students, accounting for 66.7% of the overall student body. Unfortunately, the pandemic disrupted this effort, leaving many children without access to meals.
  2. Technology: Technology can also play a role in addressing hunger in Trinidad and Tobago. Mobile apps connect donors with local food banks and soup kitchens, helping to bridge the gap between those who have food to give and those in need. FarmVue, created by TCF and IICA, is a new digital platform that helps farmers document and store records of their planting, harvesting and financial activities. This app is entirely free, making it widely accessible.
  3. Nutrition: Proper nutrition is crucial in the fight against hunger. While Trinidad and Tobago is known for its cuisine, many families do not have access to healthy, affordable food. The School Nutrition Program aims to resolve this by providing five weekly meals for school children, reaching more than 25,524 children from 2020 to 2021. The initiative now operates in 583 public schools and provides over 1,009 jobs. The Nutrition and Metabolism Division of the Ministry of Health also offers services to combat malnourishment, including Advice, lectures, demonstrations and cooking food at health centers across Trinidad and Tobago. Sadly, Trinidad and Tobago is ‘off course’ to meet their maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN) targets, with anemia still affecting 17.7% of women aged 15-49.
  4. Health Care: Access to health care is also essential in addressing hunger. Malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system and other health problems, making it difficult for individuals to work and provide for their families. The country operates a two-tier system offering public and private health care. This means all citizens can access state-provided primary health care, including treatments and medicines that tackle chronic nutrition-related diseases. The future of health care seems promising, as the government plans to increase its health spending from $549.90 per person in 2019 to $789.10 by 2050. Increases in spending have always resulted in an improved effective coverage index, as evident in the rise from 37.5 in 1990 to 55.5 in 2019. However, more work still needs to be done as high fasting plasma glucose, high blood pressure and dietary risks account for 70% of risk factors driving deaths and disability.
  5. Community Outreach: Community outreach programs can be crucial in addressing hunger in Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS), founded in 1939, provides food aid, education and other support services to those in need. TTRCS launched a food security initiative with RBC raising $700,000 to assist at-risk families with food support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation helped over 1,000 people across the country through supermarket gift cards. Additionally, TTRCS implemented the Garden to Kitchen Project to support families vulnerable to food security by developing community gardens. TTRCS has disrupted 37 individual garden start kits and established 30 community garden groups equipped with kits and vouchers.

Looking Ahead

Hunger remains a critical issue in Trinidad and Tobago, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed strategies include education programs like the School Nutrition Programme and technology such as FarmVue, connecting donors with those in need. Community outreach programs by the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society provide food aid and support. Ultimately, such efforts aim to alleviate hunger and build a healthier, more resilient society.
– Daniel Workman
Photo: Flickr