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Schools giving kids confusing messages

Schools giving kids confusing messages


Some schools are doing an excellent job of ensuring children are getting good health messages at school but many turn a blind eye to the conflicts that come with fundraising using high- sugar and/or high- fat foods and sponsorships from companies selling unhealthy foods according to Obesity Action Coalition executive director Celia Murphy.

The “Sponsorship and Fundraising in New Zealand Schools” project carried out by researchers from the Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group at the University of Otago and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health found 58% of all products sold by primary and intermediate schools and 62% by secondary schools were foods high in sugar and or fat.

“Teaching children in class that soft drinks contain too much sugar, and pies too much fat then selling them in the tuck-shop just doesn’t make sense. Sending chocolate bars home for families to sell or accepting advertising in the form of sponsorship from a fast food company doesn’t add up with good nutrition education either,” says Ms Murphy. “It is a real ‘do as I say not as I do’ message and that just doesn’t work with kids. It is sending such mixed messages and it is confusing. Parents who are doing their best to teach their kids to eat well are undermined when unhealthy foods are sold and promoted at school.”

The Health and Physical Education Curriculum is compulsory in all schools to year 10. It repeatedly notes the need for the whole school to reinforce classroom lessons in all school practices and policies and to provide a healthy environment for the children.

“Schools that sell and promote unhealthy foods are not meeting the requirements of the curriculum,” says Ms Murphy.

“But schools are struggling to make ends meet and are forced to get additional funds from somewhere. It is hard to refuse easy money offered by companies desperate to advertise to children but still appear socially responsible,” says Ms Murphy. “Some companies can see the community is beginning resist the heavy duty advertising of unhealthy foods and are desperate to get into secure positions in the community. Once they become an essential part of the funding in schools they will be difficult to squeeze- out again later.”

OAC believes this fundraising and sponsorship issue needs a high level solution.
“This is an issue for government. Schools need better funding and policies that guide them on suitable commercial partners.”


ENDS

The Obesity Action Coalition represents more than 70 organisations focused on health, nutrition and physical activity as well as Maori and Pacific health groups all interested in addressing the growing problem of obesity and its related health issues.

Its role is to advocate for a wide range of initiatives including government policy, regulations and legislation that will positively influence obesity rates.

OAC is funded by the Ministry of Health and its not-for–profit member organisations and does not receive funds from the food industry.

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