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NZ: National reversal on healthy food in schools “incredible”

FOE media release, 5 February 2009

National’s decision to remove the clause requiring schools to provide only healthy food and beverages from the National Administrative Guideline is incredible.

Clear guidelines remove the burden of  policing from teachers and school cafeteria managers. The question of whether the school environment is an appropriate place to model the type of eating which we know is desirable to keep children healthy should not be a matter of debate or subjective interpretation.

On what evidence is the Minister basing her statement that this clause is “unnecessary”?  Is it because she is confident that prior to this guideline, schools were selling only healthy food? That after its removal they will continue to sell only healthy food anyway? That New Zealand children are not dreadfully overweight and obese? That the food that they eat has nothing to do with it?

If the National government cannot even allow guidelines for healthy eating in our schools than one can only assume that they intend to do NOTHING to assist parents who are struggling to keep their children slim and healthy in the face of the an environment that does everything to promote obesity.

Many teachers and Boards of Trustees are actually trying very hard to provide a healthy environment for the children at their school. This decision will leave them completely unsupported. As for the parents and the general public, they will be mystified and many outraged.

A FOE survey conducted by BRC in 2005 found that 84% New Zealand adults agreed or agreed strongly that “unhealthy food and drink products should not be sold in school canteens and school vending machines”.

We made our case made to get junk food out of schools in section 7.5 of our submission to the Health Select Committee’s Inquiry into Obesity and Type to Diabetes in New Zealand.

Robyn Toomath

Spokesperson for FOE

ENDS

Food sold to children in or by schools: Section 7.5 of FOE’s submission to the Obesity Inquiry

Unhealthy foods should not be sold to children in or by schools. First, parents have a right to expect that when their children are at school they are not exposed to unhealthy products. And second, a key part of changing children’s and parents’ attitudes about unhealthy foods is the complete disassociation of these foods from schools. This means that unhealthy foods should not sold in schools or promoted in any way in or by schools.

The 2002 National Children’s Nutrition Survey found that more than half (52%) of New Zealand children bought some of the food they consumed at school from a canteen/tuckshop. Most of this food would not be recommended as a regular part of children’s diets. A recent survey of a stratified random sample of 200 New Zealand primary schools gives a gloomy picture of the food available for sale to children. Five out of six schools provided a food service, and, of these, 37% ran it for profit by the school, 29% contracted it out to private businesses and the remaining 34% ran it as a not-for-profit service. The most commonly available foods for sale were pies (79% of schools) and sausage rolls (55%). ‘Less healthy’ outnumbered ‘more healthy’ main choices by more than five to one. For snacks this was by more than nine to one.

The banning from sale in schools of unhealthy foods has wide public support. A large majority (84%) of New Zealand adults surveyed by BRC Marketing and Social Research in 2005 agreed or strongly agreed that “unhealthy food and drink products should not be sold in school canteens and school vending machines”.

Bans on unhealthy foods in schools have already been instituted in a number of countries. California has enacted legislation that limits fat and sugar content of food sold in elementary schools, requires schools to make fruit and non-fried vegetables available wherever other food is sold, and prohibits the sale of soft drinks.Most Australian states are also moving in this direction. New South Wales, where it is now mandatory for state schools to provide food and beverage choices consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating,is among the leaders.

FOE recommends that the Committee:

• recommends to Parliament that the sale of unhealthy foods or drinks in schools and pre-schools, including in vending machines, be prohibited.

Read our submission to the Obesity Inquiry.

Published on February 18, 2009 in FOE media releases,New Zealand news