It is expected that the government will be putting restrictions on junk food available in schools from September 2006, something that the Caroline Walker Trust considers to be 20 years too late. The trust reports that since 1992 obesity in school aged children has doubled, something that is easy to believe as a mother standing outside the school gates to pick up my son, and seeing the numbers of overweight little people emerging from school.
I decided two years ago that I no longer wanted my son to eat school dinners, choosing instead to send him to school with a healthier packed lunch. My concern that he wasn’t being fed a nutritious, healthy meal at lunch time grew as he reported to me each afternoon what he had eaten at lunch that day. There seemed to be an abundance of chips, white bread, potato ‘smiley-faces’, sausages and pizza on the list of what he had eaten, only occasionally some fruit salad, and even more rarely salads. It wasn’t that there wasn’t anything in the way of salads available, he reported to me, but that they were just a few leaves of iceberg lettuce and a few slices of hard tomato and not very appetising. It seemed to me at the time that there ought to be more of a choice of attractively prepared salads and vegetables, fruit and wholegrain foods, and because these weren’t being provided, the children were turning to sausages and chips as a ‘safer’ bet.
Until the recent introduction of the Children’s Food Bill to parliament, the government have been happy to rely on voluntary controls from a group with strong industry interests. It’s not surprising that proposals for the controls have not been forthcoming, when many of the industry bodies aren’t willing to publicly accept that there are unhealthy foods, let alone admit that they are part of the problem.
Sustain have launched a campaign to help the Children’s Food Bill succeed and be made law, and to raise public awareness of the damage done to children by eating a junk food diet. More than 148 national organisations now support this campaign, however, the bill will only become law if enough MPs tell the government about their support. You can register your support as an individual online here, or write to your MP to tell him that you support the bill being made law.
The Soil Association’s Food for Life programme works with local authorities, schools, caterers and their suppliers to raise awareness of the lack of healthy, nutritional meals available to our children, and towards getting fresh, seasonal, unprocessed, local and organic ingredients included in school meals.
I am hopeful that the majority of parents feel the way I do about the neglect of the government to ensure that the future generation is being fed good food at school, and that the Children’s Food Bill will soon be making it possible for our children to have a choice of healthy school meals every day.