*File photo
*File photo

Did you notice there were more healthy food options at this year’s Agricultural Exhibition? Perhaps that’s because there were!

In fact, 16 out of 24 vendors offered at least one healthy food option this year – something which can be attributed, in part, to the work of the Department of Health.

Prior to this year’s Agricultural Exhibition the Department of Health contacted organizations who had applied to be food vendors at the 2014 Exhibition in order to encourage them to participate in their initiative of providing healthy food options at the Exhibition.

“Traditionally the role of the Department has been to ensure food safety at the Agricultural Exhibition,” explained Department of Health Public Health Nutritionist Mellonie Furbert. “However this year, in addition to that, the Department wanted to encourage and support access to healthy foods at the Exhibition by having at least 50 per cent of food vendors incorporate a healthier option in their menu. In fact we beat our goal with 64 per cent of food vendors providing at least one healthy option. I'd like to thank those that made the effort and mention that we will be looking for feedback from them and the public on how we can build on this success.

“In particular, the Bermuda Diabetes Association should be recognized for their commitment to health in that they increased their offerings this year to five healthy options while Warwick Academy, Western Stars and YMSC Redevelopment Charity #792 offered four healthy options; and Troy Burgess and Glory Temple offered three.”

Some of the healthier food options included: fresh fruit, diabetic/sugar-free ‘snowball’ syrup, nuts, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, vegetables and grilled fish.

There was a meeting of all food vendors on March 19th, where Exhibition food vendors received food safety and nutrition advice from the Department of Health.  Attendance at this event was compulsory in order to receive permission to be a food vendor at the Exhibition.  

“I believe this ‘healthy vendor’ pilot is a first step in partnering with the community in changing the environment in support of access to healthy food options at a community venue,” said Acting Director of the Department of Health David Kendell.  “If we are to lower the rate of obesity in Bermuda then making the healthy options available at all community events is another step towards that goal.”

In Bermuda, rates of obesity, diabetes and congestive heart failure are currently above the average for OECD countries. Bermuda has a rate of diabetes that is higher than all OECD countries. In fact 13 per cent of the adult population aged 20 to 79 has some form of diabetes.

Furthermore, 24 per cent of Bermudian adults are considered obese while 19 per cent of young Bermudians (aged 11 to 18) are considered overweight or obese.

“Diabetes and obesity can be treated inside a doctor’s office, but these costly and preventable conditions won’t be solved there,” said Mr. Kendell. “Tackling obesity and diabetes involves a change in our environment including access to low-cost healthy foods; increasing opportunities for physical activity within our communities; educating the public on nutrition as a preventive tool; and working with schools and employers on common solutions.”

Mr. Kendell added: “It’s about having everything in moderation. We are not ‘against’ junk food at the Department of Health but, rather, we are campaigners for a healthier food environment in Bermuda.”