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Days of junk food in schools numbered

18 October 2005

Days of junk food in schools numbered by Green agreement

New Zealand will finally tackle one of the most important health issues of our time -getting junk food out of schools and improving the nutrition and health of the next generation, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Greens have secured an agreement to work with the government on a range of initiatives to improve New Zealand's nutrition and food environment. They will be fully involved in developing policy and legislation in these areas, and the government has agreed to allocate funding.

The proposals include a Nutrition Fund to pay for initiatives aimed at creating a healthy eating environment, developing healthy eating policy and guidelines for schools, a traffic light labelling system to enable consumers to quickly identify healthy food, publishing an annual Children's Food Promotion plan that sets out how the Health Ministry intends to develop an environment that encourages children to make healthy eating choices.

"The initiatives aim to encourage healthy eating and protect children from the overwhelming commercial pressures on them to eat unhealthy food. With one third of our children overweight or obese we are facing an inevitable public health crisis unless we take decisive action. We are not prepared to sit back and watch the health of our children being undermined when we have the opportunity to make simple changes with enormous long-term benefits.

"If we are serious about trying to improve the health of New Zealanders, we need to start by improving the our children's diet. Getting junk food and vending machines out of schools will be a priority, along with labelling to make it easier for parents to buy healthier food for children."

"Other governments around the world are tackling these issues, and it's critical that we do too."

"We also want to develop criteria to distinguish food and drinks that are considered to be nutritious and which would be recommended as a routine part of a children's diet, form foods which are of low nutritional value, and to develop recommended daily intakes for children for fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and key nutrients.

"We are seeking an expanded Nutrition section within the Health Ministry to carry out these initiatives," Ms Kedgley said. "At present there are only four full-time staff within the Ministry working on nutrition. This is woefully inadequate when you consider that poor nutrition is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand, accounting for 30 percent of premature deaths every year."

ENDS

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