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Schools flouting ban on junk food for kids
6:10am Monday 28th October 2013 in News
MORE than one in four north Essex primary schools offer children snacks banned under Government regulations.
Schools are providing unhealthy treats, such as flapjacks, crackers, cakes, buns, breadsticks, biscuits or fizzy drinks.
The Children’s Food Trust, a charity promoting food education, said such calorie-laden foods should not be allowed, unless part of the lunch meal.
But parents who responded to the Gazette on Facebook and Twitter were, in the main, in favour of allowing children “treats’’ in moderation. Some schools insisted they had to provide a choice at lunch.
Chappel School, in The Street, Chappel, is among those offering food on the “banned” list.
Pizza slices and cupcakes are offered at break times, even though the Government says they should not be.
However, headteacher Julie Ingram insisted every child was encouraged to eat fruit and vegetables. If a child turned them down, then they were given some to try.
She said: “We try to give a very varied menu and like to include choice. The children all give ideas from their favourite food at home.
“We try to include what the children like, because there’s no point in cooking food they won’t eat. “But we have a good balance. The break snacks are on the banned list, but you need to put it in context. The pizza is the same as they sometimes have at lunch, so we know it is nutritionally- balanced.
“And the cupcakes are more like fairy cakes. They don’t have icing. We believe in everything in moderation.”
The survey follows figures showing one in three boys and girls between two and 15 is overweight or obese.
A fresh warning was issued this week by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which said more needs to be done to tackle an “obesity timebomb” in children.
The institute said parents and children must be encouraged to face the fact obesity can lead to health problems.
It said what pupils eat in schools was equally important, if not more so, than what they eat at home. St John’s Green Primary School, in St John’s Green, Colchester, has stuck to the regulations.
Headteacher Simon Billings said children were given a wide choice of meal and snack options, so all found something they wanted to eat.
He said: “The whole purpose of school meals is to provide options for children. The key is to provide a balance. “We want children to take responsibility for their eating and encourage them to try different foods.”
Snacks, including fruit and flavoured water, were given at break time.
Fizzy drinks were banned, but each child was given their own re-fillable water bottle. He added: “We tend to focus on fresh fruit, fruit crisps, raisin bags and digestive biscuits. Each classroom will have snacks, like carrot, in the afternoon for the younger ones.” Of 100 schools asked for lunch and snack menus, 64 responded, of whom 17 provided food on the “banned’’ list.
A Children’s Food Trust spokesman said: “There is a long-held belief children’s diets and their immediate and long-term health are linked. “In addition to scientific evidence, anecdotal evidence suggests when children are fed a nutritionally-balanced diet, they find it easier to concentrate in the classroom and their behaviour improves.
“The trust has been conducting research to help build an evidence base to support the notion if children eat better, they do better.
“The introduction of standards throughout the UK has been designed to improve the overall nutritional quality of school food. However, changing perceptions of school meals and marketing them as an attractive, healthy lunchtime."
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