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Science Deadline: Childcare nutrition, Grenfell disaster

Childcare menus criticised

A survey of menus provided by childcare centres found most weren't meeting nutritional guidelines.

More than half of three and four-year-old children in Auckland and Waikato attend early childhood centres where food is provided daily, but most providers don't serve food that meets nutrition guidelines, according to University of Auckland research.
Published this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the research surveyed over 250 licenced childcare centres and for those where lunches and snacks were provided daily the menus were compared to nutritional requirements.
Lead author Sarah Gerritsen, a doctoral researcher at the university's Centre for Longitudinal Research - He Aka ki Mua, said half the menus did not contain sufficient quantities of grains and dairy to meet half of the pre-schoolers' daily requirements. More than half the menus contained too many "sometimes" foods like muffins, ice cream and sausage rolls.
"We were really surprised by the level of occasional food and drink served," Gerritsen told Radio NZ. "These sorts of treat foods we know children are consuming in excess outside of daycare centres as well, so if they're also getting them while they're there it's kind of a double whammy."
"Three- and 4-year-olds need to be eating a wide range of vegetables to get a full palate of tastes and vitamins and minerals - all the colours of the rainbow," she told the NZ Herald. "The lack of variety is problematic too, it's mostly apples and bananas. They need to be having exposure to a wide range."

Quoted: Newsroom

"With the current housing stock requiring significant modification and upgrading to successfully accommodate the elderly and disabled, the future is bleak.

"For quality rental housing to be truly affordable for the elderly and disabled poor, there needs to be a subsidy. One of the key questions is, who will provide that subsidy?"
Victoria University of Wellington's Dr Adele Leah on research showing large numbers of disabled New Zealanders live in damp or cold houses.

New science journalism fund
Applications are open for a new fund to support science-related journalism projects.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Science Journalism Fund is offering grants of between $500 and $10,000 for projects exploring science-related issues of importance to New Zealand.
The independent fund is the first of its kind in New Zealand, the brainchild of Dr Rebecca Priestley, science writer, book author and senior lecturer in Victoria University of Wellington’s Science in Society Group.
Dr Priestley won the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize earlier this year and is using some of the $100,000 in prize money to establish the fund in collaboration with the Science Media Centre.
The first round of funding has also been supported by the Deep South National Science Challenge and Te Pūnaha Matatini, a Centre of Research Excellence.
Applications are open to journalists employed at New Zealand media outlets as well as freelance journalists, with preference given to projects that would otherwise be unlikely to attract resourcing in newsrooms.
“These grants are aimed at important and complex subjects that go to the heart of society’s relationship with science and technology, but which require attention away from the churn of the daily news cycle,” says Science Media Centre Director, Peter Griffin.
“It would be great if there wasn’t a need for this fund and the industry wasn’t so stretched,” says Dr Priestley.
“We need to stimulate and support science journalism. Ultimately our aim is to encourage New Zealanders to understand, discuss and ask informed questions about science.”
The first round of grants will consider applications relating to the following three themes:
Climate change: Impacts and implications for New Zealand – funded by the Deep South National Science Challenge
Controversial technologies: Should we even go there? – funded by Te Pūnaha Matatini
Election 2017: where science and policy meet
Applications to the Aotearoa New Zealand Science Journalism Fund close at 5pm, Monday July 31.

Go to to apply.

Policy news & developments

More funding for rural wellness: The Health and Primary Industries Ministers have committed $500,000 for rural mental health wellness, which will go toward workshops for rural health professionals and support aimed at younger rural workers.

Aus-NZ collaborations: Three new Australian-New Zealand research projects will be supported by $4.46 million through the Catalyst Fund, including a project investigating native plant species' susceptibility to myrtle rust.

Primary sector roadmap: A roadmap for primary sector science has been launched at Fieldays and encompasses climate change, changing consumer preferences and issues like traceability.

Professor to oversee veterans review: Professor Ron Paterson, former Health and Disability Commissioner and Ombudsman, has been appointed to lead a review of the Veterans' Support Act.

Grants to focus on Māori and Pacific health: This year's Health Research Council funding round has an emphasis on Māori and Pacific health.

Cladding focus following fire
Councils are being asked to check cladding on high-rise buildings following a fatal fire in a London apartment block.

London's 24-storey Grenfell Tower was engulfed in flames in the early hours on Wednesday. Scotland Yard has launched a criminal investigation as the official death toll stands at 17 but is expected to rise.

As attention turns to the building's cladding, the New Zealand Government has asked councils to check whether cladding with combustible components was used on high-rise buildings before it was banned. New regulations were brought in on 1 January following major fires in high-rise buildings in Melbourne and Dubai.

The University of Otago has said it will look at what type of aluminium composite panels have been used on three of its buildings, none of which are accommodation buildings.

Building and Construction Minister Dr Nick Smith said the Government would watch the inquiries into the London fire "to see whether there are any issues relevant to New Zealand’s building and fire regulations. We always need to be on the lookout for ways to improve public safety".

University of Leeds structural engineer Dr Kostas Tsavdaridis told the UK SMC there was a trend for decorative materials to make buildings more aesthetically pleasing, but some of the materials used in facades could act as significant fire loads.

"As more residential and mixed-use towers appear on the London skyline, the use of different advanced materials, robust early warning systems and better designs to improve evacuation time-frames and escapes routes should be seriously revisited," Dr Tsavdaridis said.

“We cannot have a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad or old-type designs or badly maintained tower blocks in code-deficient buildings lead to tragedies like this one in Grenfell Tower."

Professor Peter Vanezis, professor of medical sciences at Barts and the London, said identifying the victims would be an immediate priority. Dental records, DNA and fingerprints would be key, along with any other personal features such as surgical implants.

"Identification may take some weeks or even months in some cases because of the state of some of the remains and families need to be updated as to progress on a regular basis and supported at all times.

"Furthermore, it will probably be some time before all victims are located due to the sheer difficulty of fire fighters working in a building which is unsafe and will require a meticulous search of the debris."

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