The Chief Tree Ini­tia­tive en­cour­ages chil­dren to eat health­ier!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Faye Chantelle Mon­de­sir

Saint Lu­cian born Pe­tra Au­guste of the Kids’ Care Kinder­garten Cen­tre in Gros Islet brings to the fore a pro­ject she has con­cep­tu­al­ized, which comes to the res­cue of chil­dren is­land-wide. Au­guste says her brain­child, ‘The Chief Tree Ini­tia­tive’, evolved as a re­sult of chil­dren be­com­ing fat­ter. “I needed to find a way to change the at­ti­tudes and the think­ing of the chil­dren, be­cause for a long time par­ents have been try­ing to get their chil­dren to eat healthily. So far it has been more par­ent-fo­cused than child-fo­cused,” she re­cently told The STAR.

Au­guste went on to ex­plain that she thought of cre­at­ing a unique char­ac­ter, hav­ing re­al­ized the im­pact the likes of Dora and Bar­ney had upon chil­dren. “I thought if I used a char­ac­ter to teach the chil­dren how to eat healthily, we would have bet­ter re­sults. This is how the en­tire ‘Chief Tree’ ini­tia­tive was cre­ated. We used a tree as the mas­cot, with lots of fruits and veg­eta­bles which were lo­cally avail­able. We also wanted the chil­dren to ac­quire a taste for all our lo­cally grown foods, as op­posed to im­ported items.”

Ac­cord­ing to Au­guste, the ini­tia­tive was con­cep­tu­al­ized back in 2012. “When I be­gan speak­ing about it, I re­al­ized the po­ten­tial not just for preschool­ers eat­ing healthily, but also for de­vel­op­ing mar­kets for en­trepreneurs. What I an­tic­i­pated was for peo­ple to be­come cre­ative and be­gin to ex­per­i­ment with tasty foods which ap­peal to chil­dren.”

She con­tin­ued, “As we be­gan speak­ing about it, the con­cept be­gan to ‘spread its branches and take roots’ and now we have ini­tia­tives which in­volve us go­ing into the schools and im­ple­ment­ing things like ‘eat a ba­nana day’.”

Au­guste told the STAR that upon re­al­iz­ing the im­pact it could have on sev­eral govern­ment min­istries such as Health, Agri­cul­ture, Education, So­cial Trans­for­ma­tion & Youth and Sports, she ap­proached those de­part­ments. “Ev­ery­one thought it was a won­der­ful idea”, she stated. How­ever, it turned out to be just lip ser­vice.

“Even­tu­ally we be­gan to work with non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions such as I.I.C.A. (In­ter-Amer­i­can In­sti­tute for Co­op­er­a­tion on Agri­cul­ture) and RISE St. Lu­cia, and through them we were able to es­tab­lish al­liances with the Global En­vi­ron­men­tal Fund and the St. Lu­cia Net­work of Ru­ral Women Pro­duc­ers (SLNRWP).”

Au­guste de­cided to work with peo­ple who were al­ready de­vel­oped within or­ganic mar­kets, pro­duc­ing health­ier snacks than those which cur­rently laden our lo­cal su­per­mar­kets shelves.

“Through G.E.F. (SGP) Global En­vi­ron­ment Small Grants Pro­gramme, we are now able to ini­ti­ate a pro­gramme via which we are ac­tu­ally go­ing to test the im­pact of ‘The Chief Tree’ ini­tia­tive on the be­havioural changes in chil­dren, us­ing a story book which I have writ­ten, the snacks and so on. We are also uti­liz­ing the ser­vices of our ru­ral women and bring­ing them on board, of­fer­ing them an ad­di­tional mar­ket by pack­ag­ing their pro­duce with ‘Chief Tree’ pack­ag­ing,” Au­guste dis­closed.

The con­cept seeks to make the ‘Chief Tree’ brand a house­hold name, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cre­at­ing an as­so­ci­a­tion in the minds of chil­dren, so that ‘Chief Tree’ branded items will be­come syn­ony­mous with healthy foods. Both farm­ers and ru­ral pro­duc­ers of healthy snacks such as bread­fruit, dasheen and plan­tain chips, as well as par­ents, have now been of­fered a so­lu­tion to a health­ier life­style for their off­spring.

In the pipe­line are ideas like a branded, at­trac­tive lunch­bag line, colou­ful pasta uti­liz­ing beet and spinach ex­tracts, nat­u­ral fruit juices - in­tended to be in­tro­duced in schools, with the aim of cre­at­ing a taste for ‘good food’ at an early age.

The ‘Chief Tree’ ini­tia­tive was launched back in Jan­uary in con­junc­tion with the RISE St. Lu­cia’s ‘Good Food Rev­o­lu­tion’ spear­headed by Dr. Steven King and Dr. Jac­que­line Bird. The aim of the pro­ject is to in­tro­duce an or­ganic food rev­o­lu­tion and more holis­tic and health­ier over­all life­styles to Saint Lu­cians, with the main tar­get be­ing to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the is­land’s ex­pen­di­ture on over­all health care ser­vices.

Pe­tra Au­guste spear­heads drive to en­cour­age young

peo­ple to en­joy lo­cal healthy fruits and veg­eta­bles.

Pre-school­ers wear­ing Chief Tree T-shirts.

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