School food: top marks! School dinners on the menu at Stormont
Stormont went back to school today when school dinners were put on the menu to highlight School food: top marks! a new initiative to support healthy eating in schools.
The event was organised by the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland (HPA), Department of Education (DENI) and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) and was used to highlight some of the work going on as part of the School food: top marks! initiative. Schools will be receiving a new manual entitled School food: the essential guide as well as Nutritional standards for school lunches and Nutritional standards for other food and drinks in schools.
Speaking during the launch, Jennifer McBratney, Food in Schools Coordinator with the HPA, said: ”We know that nutrition is central to health and that a child’s diet can be an important influence on their health now and in the future. Most children have a diet that is too high in fat, sugar and salt and in Northern Ireland obesity levels are increasing in children with nearly a quarter (22%) of all children starting primary school being classed as overweight or obese.1
“A survey of children’s eating habits in Northern Ireland showed that nearly three quarters (73%) of children had biscuits daily, with almost half of all children eating confectionery (47%) and savoury snacks such as crisps (52%) at least once a day.2 School food: top marks recognises the vital role schools play in contributing to good childhood nutrition and in developing children’s knowledge and skills to ultimately make healthier food choices. Children spend a quarter of their waking lives in school so one significant step to improving their nutrition and achieving a healthy balanced diet is to offer and promote healthy food and drink choices in school throughout the day.”
The nutritional standards for schools, which have been implemented since 2008, ensure that more fruit and vegetables are served, fresh free drinking water is available and many high fat and deep fried foods are restricted. Schools are not permitted to serve high fat, sugary and salted snacks and these have been replaced with healthier choices such as fruit, bread based snacks, milk and water.
Research looking at the behaviour and attitudes of 11-16 year olds here found that over 80% were being taught about healthy eating at school and that they felt there was a good choice of healthy food available in schools. However, the research also showed only 15% of pupils usually eat the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables daily. 3
Jennifer concluded: “Encouraging a whole school approach to healthy eating both in the classroom and the dining room will encourage children to enjoy healthy food and drinks early on and it is more likely you will reinforce positive behaviours that will stay with them for life.”
The resources will be distributed to all primary and post-primary schools from today.
Notes to the editor:
There will be a media facility in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday 25 March 2009 at 12:15pm when Jennifer McBratney, Food in Schools Coordinator for the HPA, will be available for interview.
There will be a cookery demonstration by two school cooks for the primary and post-primary pupils attending the event. School dinners will be served for pupils and teachers in the Visitors Dining Room.
1 Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. Fit futures: focus on food, activity and young people. Belfast: DHSSPS, 2007.
2 Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland. Eating for health? A survey of eating habits among children and young people in Northern Ireland. Belfast: HPANI, 2001.
3 Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The young persons behaviour and attitudes survey of 11-16 year olds living in Northern Ireland. Belfast: NISRA, 2007.
School food: top marks programme in Northern Ireland is a joint venture between the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Social Services and Public Safety. the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland and the Food Standards Agency. The work forms part of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Investing for Health strategy, which is committed to improving children’s health and well-being.
For further media information:
Contact the HPA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.