As reported in my post about childhood obesity, the various news teams around the world have all at once started to focus on the weight problems of young people in Westernised culture.
I said it then and in the aftermath of the reports I still believe it now – there is never going to be a quick fix for this, but quick fixes are what we are most likely to see as Govt’s focus more on their attractiveness to voters than on actually setting out a long-term plan that will benefit their population. Doing something that will look good to the public and give their statistics a nice boost is the obvious priority to Government, however, there are some pretty influential forces outside of Government that are looking to see more than just a band-aid applied.
Let’s take a look at some of the solutions that have been proffered over the past month:
- Parents to be sent a warning letter if pupils are measured as obese at 4 and 10 years old – not sure what this will achieve. Potentially, it will serve as a kick-start for parents to take some measures to change their children’s diet and lifestyle, but surely parents would already be aware that this without needing to be told. It also appears that parents can opt their children out of the weigh-in and also opt out of the letter being sent. A good headline for Government, but I doubt whether this will have too much impact. The Independent also discuss the fact that this could lead to bullying, as the child’s weight is being highlighted by the weigh-in.
- Government to work with fast food industry to curb advertising – this Australian initiative is likely to have more of an impact, however, if there is one thing that I have learned over the past few years it is that the junk food industry always finds a way of getting their message across regardless.
- School Dinners! – hat tip to Jamie Oliver. He has made it fashionable for Government and other high influence bodies to turn their attention to school dinners. I don’t care whether they are doing it for votes or anything else, in my opinion this is going to make a huge change (as long as it is done right):
In line with the recommendations of the School Meals Review Panel, from this September food-based standards will ensure that:
- school lunches are free from low quality meat products, fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate or other confectionery;
- high quality meat, poultry or oily fish is available on a regular basis
- pupils are served a minimum of two portions of fruit and vegetables with every meal
- any deep-fried items are restricted to no more than two portions in a week.
As schools also end the sale of junk food in vending machines and tuck shops (including confectionery, crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks) the School Food Trust will work with schools and vending providers to promote sales of healthy snacks and drinks such as water, milk, fruit juices and yoghurt drinks.
Ban soft drinks in school – similarly, in the USA a ban on the sale of ‘fizzy drinks’ in schools. This is a win-win for the drinks companies, such as PepsiCo who have spearheaded this initiative as a) they now look like the caring company and b) their profit margin is much greater on these drinks anyway! The list of drinks allowed includes: ‘bottled water, diet and unsweetened teas, diet sodas, fitness water, low-calorie sports drinks, flavoured water, seltzers, light juices and sports drinks.’ Mercola has some insightful comments on this here.
So what else is going to be done? Are there any other initiatives out there? This is a small step in the right direction, but I think that there are a lot of other avenues to be explored. Most importantly, I think that any real progress is going to have to involve ruffling some serious feathers in the food and drinks industry and I just do not think that any Government in the UK or USA (maybe in Australia) is going to be brave enough to do this.
I am definitely encouraged by the school dinners reforms though – it will be interesting to see how that pans out.
Recently (we’re in 2012 now!) a food documentary called Hungry for Change was released and it covers a LOT about food education and teaches us the things we WISH we’d been told when we were growing up. Please spread the word about this fantastic documentary and go watch it too!
In the mean time, if you want to know more, here is my interview with James Colquhorn, the co-creator and director of the Hungry for Change Movie (click link to watch on youtube):
You can find out more about the Hungry for Change Movie Here
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