Make schools more healthy

A graphic example of how services for children are failing to
work together can be found in schools’ approach to
children’s nutrition. As the Commons health select committee
points out, schools are making £10m a year from allowing the
manufacturers of foods such as crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks
to sell their products through vending machines to a captive market
of school students. Many schools don’t even provide adequate
supplies of drinking water to their pupils – an indefensible
practice. Children have to choose between becoming dehydrated and
buying cans from the school vending machine.

But not only are schools behaving irresponsibly by compromising
the health of their pupils, they are also betraying the trust
children place in them. If the school offers children these foods,
the children will absorb the message that the adults who run their
school approve of them.

One of the Children Bill outcomes to be shared across
children’s services is that children should enjoy good
physical and mental health and live a healthy lifestyle. Selling
healthier drinks and snacks in schools is an option, but children
should also be able to get themselves a drink of water whenever
they want one without having to pay for it.

Ministers may say they cannot order head teachers to remove
vending machines, but this is a cop-out. As the select committee
points out, it is the public who have to pick up the bill for the
increase in diabetes and other diseases which are already occurring
because children’s diet has been abandoned to unfettered
commercial interests.

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