PM RABUKA’S REMARKS AT THE LAUNCH OF THE NATIONAL POLICY ON HEALTHY CATERING AND SALE OF FOOD AND BEVERAGES-(14-02-2024)

● Honourable Members of Cabinet and Assistant Ministers;
● The Chairman & Members of the Public Service
Commission;
● The Chairman & Special Administrators of the Suva City
Council;
● The President, Suva Market Vendors Association &
Members;
● The Acting Commissioner of Fiji Police Force;
● The Acting Commissioner of Fiji Corrections Service;
● Permanent Secretaries & Government Officials;

● Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ni Sa Bula Vina’a and a very good morning to you all.I thank the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Ambassador Luke Rokovada for the very warm welcome and Dr. Jemesa Tudravu, the Acting Permanent Secretary for Health for the very kind introduction.

It is an honor for me to be here today to launch the National Policy on Healthy Catering and Sale of Food and Beverages for the whole of Government. I thank the Minister for Health the Hon. Dr. Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu for his detailed brief. He has considerably made my task this morning very easy.

This policy forms part of Government’s plans to combat the rise of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) which has now become a national emergency, causing over 84% of deaths annually. It is perhaps a coincidence that this Policy is being launched today, on the 14th of February, celebrated worldwide, as St. Valentine’s day. I wish you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, let us all make the commitment to be healthy for Ourselves, our Families, our Community, our Vanua, and our Nation. We can do this by making healthy choices in terms of our food, and in reducing usage of cigarettes and alcohol which are aggravating risk factors for NCDs. We must also evaluate our sedentary lifestyles and make the commitment to exercise and be healthier, for ourselves, our loved ones, and those we serve.

As your Prime Minister, I am concerned that more “younger” people are succumbing to Non Communicable Diseases leaving behind children and surviving spouses to navigate their future on their own. The promising careers of some of our nation’s bright young minds have been cut short because of the epidemic of Non Communicable Diseases.

These losses are keenly felt by families, communities and Vanua, as well as the Government agencies they serve in, and the
Nation.

As a nation, we invest in our young people’s education, in their health, and in their careers in terms of scholarships.

For civil servants, the Government invests in your career with mentoring, training, workshops and scholarships.

I am therefore pleased to commend this ongoing project by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Service. In particular I Dr. Devina Nand, and her team at the Wellness Unit of the Ministry of Health and the National Food and Nutrition Committee for this Policy.

The commendable objective of this Policy is to promote optimal nutrition and foster healthy eating habits for civil servants, and the community.

The Policy will ensure that meals, snacks and beverages available to everyone at all government facilities, offer healthier choices.

Much of the duty of governing involves collaboration, which necessitates meetings across the whole of Government. This means that the Government’s catering budget is not
insubstantial.

When the whole of Government is providing healthier food to visitors, clients and civil servants, there will be increased demand for local fruits, healthy greens, vegetables and root crops.

The increased demand for fresh products means good news for farmers, fishermen, and market vendors and (hopefully) a concomitant reduction in our national import bill in terms of unhealthy processed food.

I am pleased that we have with us today the President of the Suva Market Vendors Association, and a few of her members offering their products at the booths.

They perform a necessary service, and I hope that this policy will give them more business than ever! The Minister for Health has revealed the details of the health trends from the screening of 3,456 individuals within the Civil Service and selected private institutions.

These findings highlight the prevalence and progression of health risks in the service, which underscores the need to adopt this policy.

For media and researchers, the breakdown of the results are detailed in the Policy document.

As a former soldier, one who is now 75, I know that a healthier diet is only half of the story.

The Minister for Health has reminded us this morning that physical activity and exercise is essential – at least 30 minutes per day of walking, running, swimming or exercise is necessary, to safeguard against NCDs.

The government policy for “Wellness Wednesday” where civil servants have an hour for exercise and wellness programs, is commendable.

I hope to participate in the Wellness Wednesday event soon, but in the meantime, I am cultivating the home garden. This helps provide healthier options for my family, and at the same time we enjoy the physical demands of this activity.

The other important point from the Minister for Health’s brief is that the use of alcohol and cigarettes must be reduced, or preferably ceased, as they increase the risks for NCDs. Government has implemented various policies to reduce the use of cigarettes and alcohol, including taxation.

I urge the Ministry of Health and Public Service Commission to continue to encourage healthier habits in the service.

This Policy is an important milestone in our response to the national emergency on NCDs and to build a healthier civil service, society, and nation.

Government agencies will implement the Policy and I look forward to seeing improvement in future health screening exercises and maybe, a reduction in the catering budget.

I am hopeful that once we in government commit to this workplace policy, we will then provide healthier options for our children and families.

I therefore take great pleasure in launching the Policy and the two accompanying documents that aid in implementing the Policy: the Catering Policy Handout; and the Standard
Operating Procedure and Guidelines.In closing, I wish you all a very happy Valentines Day, and trust that we will all commit
to healthier choices so that we can continue serving our families, our communities, and the
nation.

Vina’a Va’alevu!

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