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Out of sight, out of stomach

Glasgow's council leader has called for the new schools nutrition standards Bill to give councils the powers to remove the licences of snack vans which park outside school gates.

As Steven Purcell joined pupils at Springburn Academy at the launch of the council's new secondary school menus and enhanced reward scheme, he called on MSPs to seize the opportunity provided by the new Bill to reform the current licensing legislation.

He said removing the attraction of chip and burger vans from the school doorstep might help the city's campaign to promote healthier lifestyles for young people.

"What is really important, however, is finding ways to encourage young people through their own choice to lead healthier lifestyles," Councillor Purcell said.

Glasgow has already introduced new menus in its secondary schools which meet all the nutritional standards set by the Executive's Hungry for Success guidelines. All secondary schools in Scotland have a target for meeting these standards by December this year.

The council has also enhanced its rewards scheme which gives pupils additional points for eating healthy options rather than unhealthy ones.

The points can then be redeemed for prizes, such as a Sony PSP games system, a six-month gym pass to council facilities, various iPod goods, and cinema tickets.

Liz Ervine, headteacher of Springburn Academy, detects a change in attitude towards eating among some pupils, with the prizes acting as a real incentive for some, although not all.

However, she acknowledges that the healthy and nutritionally-balanced menus on offer in the revamped Fuel Zone, complete with plasma screens and music accompaniment, face competition from the snack van parked outside the school gate and the cafe in the nearby shopping centre which sells chips and gravy for pound;1.

The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced on Monday, will impose new duties on councils to comply with nutritional requirements and give ministers powers to ban junk food, allow for the return of free school milk or fruit juice for all pupils, and for those most in need to get both a free meal and snacks during the day.

The Bill also places a duty on councils to promote school lunches and, in particular, free school lunches, and to make free school meal systems anonymous.

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