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Highland develops a taste for health

Healthier menus in Highland schools led to a 12 per cent drop in the number of pupils taking meals. But they bounced back after pupils got used to the change, Dave Rex, community dietician for NHS Highland, says.

All 29 secondaries, 184 primaries and six special schools are now classed as health-promoting schools, two years ahead of the national target, Mr Rex told a recent conference on diet, behaviour and junk food in Edinburgh.

But Mr Rex cautioned that there was still a major job to persuade pupils to eat more healthily, even if the signs were encouraging. "It's about people getting used to it; it takes time," he told the conference.

There was still poor access to fresh produce in rural areas and small schools had no kitchens. In urban areas, school meal budgets were limited and there was no ring-fencing of cash. The overall food culture was an equal challenge. Children consumed too much chocolate, biscuits, crisps, sugary drinks, chips and pastry and too little nuts, pulses, seeds, red meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.

Lizzie Vann, founder of the Organix Company and radical thinker on children's health and nutrition, told the conference of being so shocked at the chemicals pumped into babyfood she set up her company.

Dr Vann backed the free schools meals system in Finland which has pulled in pupils. "Children do not like to spend money on things that are free. They would rather keep their money," she said.

Marj Adams 23

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