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School food shake-up big win for kids

11 June 2007

School food shake-up big win for kids

The Green Party is delighted that its years of campaigning and its cooperation agreement with the Government have helped secure the introduction of new rules that require schools to sell only healthy food and drink to students.

"Poor diet is the leading cause of premature death and disease in New Zealand and a third of our children are obese or overweight," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Green Party's own annual tuck shop survey, carried out over the past three years, have highlighted that a majority of school canteens continue to sell a staple diet of unhealthy food.. This is despite heightened awareness of the link between diet, health and learning, and the introduction of Food and Nutrition Guidelines.

"Clearly schools were not making the change voluntarily, so I believe amending the National Administrative Guidelines to make it a requirement on schools was the next step. If we are to improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders, it's essential we start with children, teach them good eating habits and encourage them to make healthy food choices.

"When children eat well, they concentrate better and are better able to learn. Schools should equip children with the skills and experience they need to get through life well. Learning about food and encouraging healthy eating choices are essential skills.

"While I want to acknowledge the great changes some schools have made, I am astonished that others have been dragging their feet over something that is so critical to children's health and well-being.

"One of the main problems is that many school canteens are contracted out, run at a profit, and for them it's easier to throw some sausage rolls into a warmer, than it is to make a healthy sandwich. This should not be used as an excuse to feed our children unhealthy food and drink that we know contributes to obesity, diabetes and other nutrition-related diseases.

"Schools which have made the changes and instituted healthy eating policies have all reported that children's ability to learn and their behaviour improved."

If schools needed help changing their food canteens, they can apply for funding from a $12 million Nutrition Fund, which the Green Party secured in last year's Budget.

"I congratulate the Government for having the courage and foresight to take this step," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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