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Tuckshop food detrimental to learning

24 May 2006

Tuckshop food not just fatty but detrimental to learning too

New research published by the Obesity Action Coalition which shows that school attendance and classroom behaviour improve when children eat healthier food provides further compelling evidence that action is needed to ensure that only healthy food is available in New Zealand schools.

The Green Party last week released the results of a survey of school lunch menus which revealed that the staple foods available at most schools were high in fat and sugar and that in most cases healthy options were more expensive than unhealthy options like pies and chips.

"Unhealthy school lunch menus are bad enough when you consider purely physical health problems like obesity and dental problems, but this new research shows that the impact is even wider," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"This research shows that poor nutrition is often linked to short attention spans, disruptiveness, and other behavioural and emotional issues which can all have severely detrimental effects on children's learning.

"According to this research, schools that introduced healthy food policies and got rid of high energy, low nutrient foods from their canteens found that children were easier to teach. The report found that school policies that encourage healthy food can be important and effective at improving childhood nutrition, especially if they are not just limited to the classroom but incorporate school-wide, multi-strategy initiatives.

"These findings provide further impetus for urgent action to improve the quality of food available for children to buy at school. While some schools are leading the way in this area, in most cases it seems clear that schools will not make these changes when left to their own devices. We need guidelines and timetables that all schools should be required to adhere to," Ms Kedgley says.


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