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Lunch Survey: Dietician Sarah Crawford Comments

Comments from Dietician Sarah Crawford on the results of the Green Party school lunch survey:

Schools should not be selling high fat foods such as pies, chips, sausage rolls hot food bites. Given the opportunity children will buy those foods over healthier options such as sandwiches, rolls or fruit. Children are attracted to those higher fat foods by the smell and feeling of satisfaction and feeling full that they give. The fact that in 24 per cent of schools it was more expensive to buy a sandwich or a roll than a pie also encourages them to purchase those unhealthy foods rather than chose healthy options.

It was shocking to see that 68 per cent of schools did not even offer fruit as an option. Guidelines say New Zealanders should be eating five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day, and even this is lower than the seven pieces recommended in Australia and the nine that Canadians are told to eat.

It is important for schools to have fruit on the menu. If children eat the amount of fruit that is recommended they will feel full and not be tempted to eat high fat foods.

New Zealanders have over recent years have become conditioned to eat food high in fat and/or sugar. The fact that several schools did not even provide sandwiches or rolls will only perpetuate that conditioning and reinforce bad habits.

For schools to provide pies, sausage rolls and hot dogs and the like is most likely a decision based on profit and convenience. It is much easier to throw some pies into a pie warmer than it is for staff to have to make sandwiches and salads.

The labour costs are much reduced when all that is involved is reheating a product make off-site.

Chips are also high in fat and should not be available in schools. With 72 per cent of schools offering those for sale, children are being widely provided with food that is high in fat and salt, which provides instant gratification.

What the study says to me is that when a school lunch menu is worked out the priority is to stock with foods that the school knows the children like so that all the stock sells, rather than selecting foods that are healthy for the children. They have food that is high in sugar and high in fat and that food sells. What is needed is legislation that ensures schools do not sell food that is damaging to children’s long-term health.

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