Food retailer Iceland is helping children across the country learn about food and nutrition in response to research which shows that people on a low income are more likely to neglect their diet.

The research, carried out by Mintel International, reveals that poor households pay less attention to the quality of their diet, and families on a tight budget are less aware of the health risks associated with eating a poor diet then those in more affluent households. The survey also indicates that only 18 per cent of all parents questioned attempt to follow the five-a-day fruit and vegetable guidelines issued by the Government.

To help parents and teachers combat this problem Iceland has developed the 'Cool Food' big book in conjunction with the British Dietetic Association (BDA). It will be sent to almost 25,000 primary schools in the UK, free of charge. The big book is a comprehensive guide on food, nutrition and healthy eating, in line with the national curriculum and it is intended for use by primary school teachers during literacy hour in England and Wales and in health education in Scotland and Northern Ireland for 8-9 year olds.

Bill Wadsworth, technical director of Iceland, says: "Mintel's research showed us that nearly half of parents in Britain do not think that their children eat a healthy diet and those from low income households are more likely to eat a poor diet. It would appear that a lack of understanding of the link between diet and long-term health is one of the major barriers to healthy eating. By providing schools with the 'Cool Food' big book we hope we can help children learn about food and the importance of nutrition from an early age, before they develop bad eating habits."

Figures from the research also highlighted that parents, representing three quarters of all the adults interviewed (selected to represent the national population), think schools are key to
providing nutritional information, and over half of those questioned feel that schools should have some responsibility in providing their children with a healthy diet.

Carol Matta, author of 'Cool Food' big book and nutritionist & dietician, commented: "Children's diets are often unhealthy and Government figures show that kids, particularly those in low income households, don't eat enough fruit and veg. But, you don't have to have a lot of money to eat healthily. It's a myth that you have to eat fresh produce all the time to have a balanced diet - it can easily be replaced by frozen, which can be more nutritious or tinned which is often cheaper. Learning about food is an important part of a child's development and the 'Cool Food' big book is a great way for teachers, parents and health professionals like myself to get the message across in a fun way."

The twenty-four pages in the 'Cool Food' big book are split into nine main categories covering the following topics: food, nutrients and nutrition, ingredients and recipes, energy, protein and fat, carbohydrate and fibre, vitamins and minerals. The book also looks at a balanced diet, the five food groups, a healthy lunch and food and illness, all through the eyes of a child.

As well as being distributed to almost 25,000 primary schools the UK, the whole of the 'Cool Food' big book can be read at www.coolfood.co.uk, providing people of all ages with a user friendly guide on healthy eating.

Notes to the Editor:

Mintel's research was carried out on a sample of 1,000 adults representative of the national population (March 2000).

COMMENTS

Luci Daniels, Honorary Vice Chairman from the British Dietetic Association:

"Dieticians are well aware of the link between low income, poor nutrition, and an increasing risk of ill health. It's important that all groups in society have realistic and practical advice on how to improve their nutritional intake. Where better to start than with primary school children? The British Dietetic Association welcomes this partnership with Iceland in providing an accurate and useable resource to all primary schools."

Judy More, Chair of the Paediatric Group of the British Dietetic Association:

"Children will discover many useful facts about food in this delightful book. Most importantly they will learn how to balance their meals to include foods from all the different food groups - a tradition that certainly improves health, but is sadly no longer followed in many families today. If as a result of reading it, children begin to eat more fruit, milk and vegetables, their risk of getting heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis in adulthood will decrease."

MINTEL COMMENTARY - CHILDREN AND NUTRITION

  • Far less attention is being paid to the quality of diet in poorer households, while respondents from less affluent households are less likely to even recognise that there are shortcomings with their diet. Awareness of raised levels of risk of ill health resulting from poor diet was less well understood by the more deprived groups. Whether this is due to levels of education or merely due to the unalterable fact that poorer households have fewer choices and more limited access to different types of food and even transport to carry home is difficult to assess. The results have important implications for the health of the children of some of the poorest families.
     
  • There is also an alarming rise in obesity in children. This is confirmed by a recent report from the Medical Research Council which concludes that today's children are more at risk of developing osteoporosis, heart and respiratory diseases and some forms of cancer, than their more deprived post-war parents and grandparents.
     
  • Key to improving the overall health of children will be to make their parents more health conscious, to improve their own diets as the first step towards improving the diets of all the family. It is difficult to understand exactly why so few parents are trying to have a healthy diet, except that this is a stressful period of many people's lives, when time and money can sometimes be in short supply.
     
  • Schools will have to play a key role in helping to break the cycles of poor eating in families, as changing the poor eating habits of a nation could take several generations. It would appear that what is currently being taught in schools on healthy eating is insufficient as it is not being put into practice - either in the school dining room or in the home.
     
  • Young people in their twenties, most of whom will have left home fairly recently would like more advice on healthy eating, suggesting they are not learning enough in the home or from their time at school.

ICELAND OWN BRAND
FIRST WITH THE FIRSTS

September 1990 - Iceland bans the use of mechanically recovered meat in all products.

October 1996 - Iceland becomes the first supermarket to begin a programme to rid its own brand products of GM ingredients.

May 1998 - Iceland became the first supermarket to remove genetically modified ingredients from all own brand products.

January 1999 - First major supermarket to remove all artificial colours and flavours from own brand products.

First food retailer to produce and label frozen vegetables at net weight excluding any protective ice glaze.

All meat used in own brand products is from animals fed on a meat and bonemeal free diet.

The use of offal banned (except where stated in the name of the products) and only recognised cuts of meat used in Iceland own brand products.

Iceland bans the use of the artificial sweetener Aspartame.

November 1999 - Synthetic colour and GM ingredients banned from the feed of hens laying own brand eggs.

February 2000 - All own brand whole birds and chicken portions are from poultry fed on a non-GM diet.

June 2000 - In partnership with the National Trust, Iceland invests £1m to help increase organic farming acreage in the UK.

July 2000 - All artificial sweeteners banned from Iceland's own brand products.

September 2000 - Iceland commits to a programme to ensure all livestock for its own brand cuts of meat will be fed a non-GM diet.

October 2000 - Iceland converts all its own label vegetables to organic at little or no extra cost.

Finally, Iceland is the only food retailer to offer a national home delivery and home shopping service via telephone, fax or the internet.