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Removing the junk food temptation

In an astonishingly supine contribution to the free school meals debate, Allan Forrester claims (TESS, last week) that poor eating habits are learnt at home and there is "little that schools can do to change that". Presumably the logic is that poor reading habits, poor exercise habits and a lack of conversation at home should be treated in a similar way.

The implication is that education should be provided only for those who are already well-nourished, in every sense of that phrase, before they cross the school threshold.

Surely the reverse makes better sense? If we offered a range of appetising meals free, right from the start of primary school, then any need for a parent to send his or her child off each morning with a quid or two (easily divertible and convertible into sugary, fatty snacks) would be removed.

Good habits would be inculcated, including the social habit of eating together, rather than the dismal practices of munching on the run or snacking alone in front of a television.

When pupils no longer have to be sent to school with "dinner money", or with a means-tested token, and when schools remove the junk food option from their on-site provision, then the intake of nutritious food will increase by leaps and bounds. Tommy Sheridan's Bill creates the basis for that joint effort, and ultimately for a healthier nation.

Despite Mr Forrester's attempted gibes, my belief is that advertising pressure, the "tyranny of cool" and stigmatisation of the less fortunate are globally reinforced propaganda which teachers are required at all stages to contest, whether in Orkney, Pollok or Bearsden, if we are to develop rational, compassionate and self-fulfilling young people.

John Aberdein

Grieveship Brae

Stromness, Orkney

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