'Grazers' eat their way home

Pupils continue to enjoy chips with everything, especially pizza.

The fourth annual survey by caterer Gardner Merchant of children's eating habits throughout the UK reveals that Scottish pupils are at the forefront of the "grazing" habit: buying snacks on the way to and from school and raiding the fridge when they get home.

The report comments: "The picture of British youth, snacking on chocolate and fizzy drinks, is leavened only by the positive impact of Schools Nutrition Action Groups and others working to raise awareness of health issues among parents, teachers and schoolchildren".

These groups exist in only 12 per cent of schools and the report urges action to increase the number and quality of such committees. It also calls on the Government to ensure that putting school meals out to tender does not hit the quality of food.

The survey, carried out in March and April among 855 children aged 7-16 and their parents and a second group of 983 children aged 5-16, shows that children in Scotland spend more money on their way to school: 64p a day. Scotland is also equal first with the East Midlands for the amount per head spent on the way home from school: 55p. Scottish children also spend the most on canned drinks.

But Scottish pupils spend less on school meals than anywhere else in the country, at 99p compared with a UK average of Pounds 1.16. This is a reflection of higher local authority subsidies, combined with the fact that 33 per cent of Scottish pupils go home for lunch, the highest incidence in the five areas surveyed.

The good news for nutritionists is that more children north of the border have a light supper when they come home from school. A plus for schools is that 61 per cent of pupils have discussed the issue of healthy eating in the classroom, the highest proportion in the survey. Scotland tops the league again in having 80 per cent of pupils who believe their diet is very or quite healthy.

Fewer children have stopped eating beef: 14 per cent against the UK average of 25 per cent and 31 per cent in the north of England.

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