Thursday, August 10, 2006

More food dictatorship in Melbourne schools

What's the point of restricting the diet of the great majority of the kids who are NOT overweight by any criterion? And ideas about what is "healthy" change all the time. Carbohydrates were really bad for a long time. Now they are really good. It is food fads that are being enforced, nothing else. And don't forget that salt is good for you

Fast food has been banned from a school to stop up to 20 parents delivering it to their children each lunchtime. The school's ban covers McDonald's, pizzas and other calorie-laden meals, including those from outlets such as KFC and Red Rooster. The school has also brought in a fitness instructor to help teachers keep healthy, and is reviewing the canteen menu.

Principal Leonie Fitzgerald said the ban was proving successful, drawing a positive response from parents and children. Ms Fitzgerald said the school had decided to ban fast food after it became a serious problem. "We had an issue with parents dropping off fast food, like McDonald's, KFC and Red Rooster, for treats for their kids," she said. Ms Fitzgerald said at one point up to 20 parents were coming to the school a day.

She said time-strapped parents often got fast food for their children because it was more convenient. "Sometimes they've been too busy in the morning . . . so they get something quick and easy," Ms Fitzgerald said. She said she also approached parents when they came into the school foyer with fast-food lunches. "That was the most effective way to explain it."

Ms Fitzgerald said parents had responded very well to the ban, taking the school's advice to prepare healthier lunches. "We have turned it around," Ms Fitzgerald said of the problem. "It only happens very rarely now, which is great." The school has other initiatives, including a fitness program for staff before and after school. A nutritionist will also talk to students, staff and parents next week.

Australian Medical Association president Mukesh Haikerwal praised Dandenong South PS. "It has been brave and changed people's eating habits and attitudes to food," Dr Haikerwal said. He called on the Government to ban fast food from all primary schools. "In the current climate of obesity in the community, all steps must be taken to make people aware of wrong food choices," Dr Haikerwal said. "There a lot of reasons to ban junk food at primary school, because children at that age are often unable to make informed food choices."

The State Government has already announced it will outlaw soft drink from schools and is looking at restricting the sale of lollies and chips. But a spokesman for Education Minister Lynne Kosky said there were no immediate plans to ban all high-calorie fast food from schools.

Nutrition Australia spokeswoman Kelly Neville said over a third of a child's food intake is consumed in school hours. "A healthy lunch, snacks and drinks are therefore very important," Ms Neville said. Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said the Government should help by funding programs and nutritious canteens. Parents Victoria's Gail McHardy said it was great to see school and community working together. Statistics show about 10,000 Victorian children become obese or overweight every year. The Department of Human Services said that up to 25 per cent of Victorian children are overweight or obese.


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