SINGAPORE - A move to get primary school pupils to junk potato chips and fried chicken wings, and snack instead on carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, will be launched in April.
Called FoodSteps, it plans to start initially in 15 schools in the area run by the South West Community Development Council, with volunteers and food enthusiasts dishing up fun and interactive activities to entice 1,500 young palettes to go for healthy food choices.
The pilot programme was announced on Tuesday (March 26) by Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources.
Getting them to switch when young is important, as it "can help create lifelong preferences for healthy foods and hence better health", Dr Khor said, adding that the programme will pay special attention to children from "disadvantaged" families because of the greater challenges they may face in leading healthy lifestyles.
She was speaking at the inaugural World Food Future (WFF) for Women Conference, held in conjunction with International Women's Day, which was on March 8.
The conference on food science and nutrition was attended by about 300 people, with six panels of speakers that included industry leaders, policymakers and experts.
Ms Joanna Chan, group director of the Health Promotion Board, who spoke on the increasing threat of diabetes, called on Singaporeans to "consume all food in moderation". She also said more than 1,200 food and beverage outlets are now part of the board's Healthier Dining Programme, which includes giving these businesses grants to develop and promote healthier menu options.
Dr Khor, in her speech, also said that a change of diet can benefit the environment too.
Eating less red meat, for instance, not only reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, but also cuts Singapore's carbon footprint because one kilo of beef creates about 13.3kg of carbon dioxide while one kilo of poultry or vegetables produces less than one-quarter of that.
Similarly, local produce such as eggs, fish and vegetables helps to protect the environment, as the short distance it travels significantly reduces Singapore's carbon footprint. It also arrives much fresher at the retailer, she added.
Sustainable eating includes cutting down food waste as well, said Dr Khor. Such waste accounts for about half of the daily waste of a Singapore household, according to a 2017 survey.
By reducing food waste, Singapore's carbon footprint can be lessened and "we can make positive strides towards protecting both ourselves and the planet's health", she added.
Dr Khor also reiterated the importance of food security, noting the establishment of the Singapore Food Agency next Monday. It will consolidate the regulatory functions that are now in the hands of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, the National Environment Agency and the Health Sciences Authority.
The new agency's goals include meeting 30 per cent of Singapore's nutritional needs by 2030 and setting up the National Centre for Food Sciences to do research on food safety.