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Hands-off Ministry slated for school food policy

Hands-off Ministry slated for school food policy

Sue Kedgley says the refusal of the Ministry of Health to even draw up guidelines on healthy eating in schools makes a mockery of its claim that it is giving high priority in its health strategy to nutrition and the reduction of obesity.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson, said she was disturbed by the Ministry's apparent lack of interest in trying to limit the sale of unhealthy foods and drink through school tuckshops. The Ministry was reported today to have no guidelines for high-sugar drinks, leaving it up to individual Boards of Trustees to set the rules.

"The Ministry has not yet expressed a whimper of concern about the presence of fizzy-drink vending machines in schools, yet their own nutrition survey found that one quarter of our children's astronomically high sugar intake is coming from soft drink.

"As a result of the release of last week's alarming Children's Nutrition Survey, which showed that 30 per cent of New Zealand children are overweight or obese, the Ministry should be taking immediate action to improve the food our children eat - including what's eaten in schools around New Zealand.

"By abrogating its responsibility to each school's Board of Trustees, the Ministry of Health is undermining its own childhood health strategy and national nutrition goals. What's the point of carrying out the expensive, resource intensive nutrition survey if it is not prepared to act on its findings?"

Ms Kedgley commended the schools that have adopted healthy-eating tuckshop policies and withdrawn fizzy-drink vending machines from their grounds, and said the Ministry should call on all schools to follow their example.

"Ask any of the principals at these schools and they'll tell you what a huge influence diet has on young children. Students are learning more effectively and many schools have noticed a decline in restless behaviour - especially during afternoon classes.

"The Ministry should take note of this. Healthy children of today will create far fewer problems tomorrow for a health system that is already struggling to cope.

"In the meantime, while we await leadership from the Ministry of Health, I urge all schools to seriously consider the health effects of the food they sell through their tuckshops. Getting rid of vending machines selling sugar-laden fizzy drinks would be a great place to start," said Ms Kedgley.

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