Blog: Ooh, they don’t like it up 'em!

Catherine Sleep | 28 September 2005

A distinctly narked-sounding press release from the Food and Drink Federation just dropped in my inbox. You’ll have seen today’s press coverage of UK education secretary Ruth Kelly’s latest pledge to improve nutrition in schools by banning unhealthy foods in school dinners and vending machines.

The FDF makes the valid point that banning certain foods is not the answer, long term, to teaching children how to feed themselves properly. This is true. However, persuading unsupervised children to choose apples from a vending machine that is also stocked with crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks is like trying to push water uphill. With a sieve.

To most observers, it does actually make quite a lot of sense to remove unhealthy products from vending machines in schools. It’s great that the industry has taken vending machines out of primary schools, but you don’t suddenly gain the maturity of an adult when you hit the ripe old age of 11 and go to senior school. Yes, it’s all about education, but many kids need quite heavy-handed encouragement to make good choices. Providing junk food in school vending machines while preaching good nutrition in the classroom is a classic mixed message and it’s hard to see why anyone bothers defending it.

Of greater concern to head teachers is doubtless the potential loss of revenue they make from giving house room to commercial vending machines, but that’s a topic for another day.

Food and Drink Federation statement


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