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Healthy glow for Fife's new diet

Sales of school meals in Fife's secondary schools have risen by four per cent - thanks to a pound;1.6 million investment in better catering facilities, healthier menus and access to free drinking water.

Menus now include more fruit and vegetables, and all ingredients are low in salt and fat to meet nutritional standards.

Graham Bell, Fife's consultant in public health and chair of the council's food in schools group, attributes successes in encouraging children to eat healthy dinners to the council's efforts to improve the dinner hall experience.

"We are looking to encourage young people to choose to stay in school, enjoy their lunchtime and eat a healthy meal," Mr Bell said.

All Fife's secondary schools now have plasma screen televisions in canteens, showing music programmes as well as flagging up menu choices and school messages. Free chilled drinking water and free water bottles are available in the vast majority of schools, and every nursery, P1 and P2 child has free fruit three times a week.

More than 11,000 secondary pupils now use school dining facilities on a daily basis - an increase of 4 per cent on 2004 figures.

Uptake in primary has remained constant at around 12,000. Officials interpret this as encouraging, given that primary school rolls are beginning to fall in line with demographic changes.

Mr Ball said that more initiatives would be rolled out in the coming months, including a new policy on tuck shops and vending machines in schools, and new lunchbox guidance for parents.

* Fife is launching a smartcard to provide 12-25s with access to a variety of services. The myfife card is the size of a bank card and contains an electronic chip. It can be used as a bus ticket, a library card and a membership card for leisure facilities and other services. It can also act as a proof of age card and offer discounts to a variety of services through Young Fifestyle and Young Scot.

The card will be launched at Glenrothes High in August and will be offered to young people at secondary schools in Fife over the next 18 months.

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