Some children are being sent to school with just cold chips or a packet of biscuits for lunch, a survey published this week has revealed. The Children’s Food Trust, which carried out the poll, revealed some unsettling insights into children’s diets.
The results showed that not only are many children provided with unhealthy foods, some are also not given enough to eat. In fact, 85% of adults asked in the poll who work with children have seen youngsters in this situation. And perhaps more shocking – 72% of teachers surveyed have seen children who have arrived at school having skipped breakfast, with no lunch and no means to pay for one. So what’s going on?
Rising living costs of course play their part in the problem, with someone today needing almost £300 to have the equivalent purchasing power of £100 30 years ago1. It’s fair to say that times are tough, but is this solely the reason why one in three children are overweight by the time they reach their ninth birthday?
A report headed by Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley entitled Averting a Recipe for Disaster surveyed parents in December 2012. Results showed that 26% said the price of buying fresh ingredients was the main barrier to healthy eating in the home. However, the report revealed that the main issue was a lack of education and culinary knowledge. It highlights the importance of teaching parents to implement healthy food habits from the time a baby is first weaned – and getting it right from the start. After all, it’s during the first year babies will develop relationships with certain foods that may last a lifetime.
The government has announced plans to tackle the obesity epidemic (which currently costs the NHS £6 billion a year) by implementing compulsory lessons in cookery and nutrition within schools. The lessons, which begin in September 2014, will teach 7-14 year olds how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The aim is to help pupils build up a repertoire of 20 dishes by the time they leave school, allowing them to pass on their knowledge at home, and eventually, their own children. There are also plans to prevent pupils bringing in their own food by introducing compulsory school meals, which some parents may believe infringes on their right to decide what their child eats.
A review of school meals in 2005 led by Jamie Oliver highlighted the issue, but eight years on, only one in five schools provide children with at least one portion of fruit and vegetables every day2. Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
What do you think of the government’s plans to change schoolchildren’s eating habits? Do you think they’re enough to make a permanent difference? Or do you think we still need to work on implementing healthy eating and education for parents and pre-school children? Perhaps you find it difficult to cook healthy meals on a tight budget. Have any tips? We’d love to hear what you have to say.
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