Future Voices: Obesity is not a problem we can ignore any longer

PARENTAL PERMISSION OBTAINED. File photo dated 08/03/07 of a meal being served to a primary school p

PARENTAL PERMISSION OBTAINED. File photo dated 08/03/07 of a meal being served to a primary school pupil in Cambridgeshire, as more than 350,000 children could lose their free school meals under the Government's planned welfare reforms, a charity has warned. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date date: Thursday April 19, 2012. An analysis by the Children's Society found more than 1.2 million youngsters living in poverty are currently missing out on the dinners which are linked to low-income benefits. See PA story EDUCATION Meals. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire - Credit: PA

What springs to mind when you hear the words 'school meals'? Turkey twizzlers? Dinner ladies with hair nets? Or the classic rice pudding with a dollop of jam in the centre? Whatever it is we have all experienced it in one way or another. But things are beginning to change. The government has implemented a new scheme known as 'The Standards for School Lunches'. The national food standards are in place to ensure meals provided to pupils are nutritious and of a good quality.

The new revised standards were put into place on January 1, 2015. The government believes providing high quality school meals will improve children's health, behaviour and performance.

Two main elements make up the standards: food-based standards, and nutrient-based standards.

Food-based standards make up the food and drinks which have to be provided. Nutrient-based standards look at the energy content and the 13 nutrients which must be incorporated in the meals during a one-to-four-week menu. An example would be that the standards state that no confectionary, chocolate or chocolate-coated products are allowed to be on offer throughout the school day. So why was it changed? According to a government website, previous standards were complicated and expensive to enforce. Caterers and cooks had to use a special computer program to understand the nutritional content of every menu. Multiple factors also held them back from creating flexible and creative meals, including the fact they used to receive and follow three-week menu plans sent out by centralised catering teams who would do the analysis of the menus for them. The World Health Organisation regards childhood obesity as a serious problem for the 21st century. Late figures from 2013/14 show 14.4pc of children were overweight, and 19.1pc of children in Year 6 were obese. Also, 9.5pc of children in reception were obese, and 13.1pc were overweight. This means that a third of 10-11 year olds and more than a fifth of four-to-five year olds were obese or overweight.

Obese children and adolescents are at a risk of developing a number of health problems, and are also likely to become obese when they grow older. This is an issue we can no longer ignore.

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Alex Animba, 16 Wymondham College

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