Beware the chip police

16th February 2007 at 00:00
The Assembly government wants a food tsar to improve nutrition in schools

THE HUNT is on for a healthy eating champion to rid Welsh schools of tooth-rotting and obesity-causing junk food.

The Welsh Local Government Association is currently advertising for a food in schools co-ordinator with a salary range between pound;30,843 to Pounds 37,476.

A spokesperson for the WLGA said the successful candidate would have a variety of roles to play in raising the healthy eating habits of the nation's young.

"This post has come about from a recommendation in the Appetite for Life report published last year," she said. "Part of the new co-ordinator's role will be to oversee the running of a national nutritional data base for schools and local authorities."

The report contained 41 healthy-eating proposals in a Wales-wide strategy for boosting school nutrition.

Wales had been accused of lagging behind England in turning around the quality of school dinners after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver said in a prime-time TV programme that Turkey Twizzlers had an adverse effect on children's health.

The Assembly government announced a pound;4.3 million funding package over three years to phase in a whole-school approach to food served up in schools in November.

Part of the money will be used to improve school kitchens and train catering staff in healthy eating.

More than 300 of the 500 responses received during consultation over the Appetite for Life report were from children.

The responses are currently being evaluated and will be used to form an action plan that will be published this summer.

Details included in the new job description for the Assembly-funded post is for the new food tsar to forge strong relations with schools in carrying out the new strategy.

Also included in the new co-ordinator's jobJremit isJto stageJevents showcasing good food practice among Wales's 22 Jlocal authorities.

Proposals in the report included a complete ban on the sale of sweets, fizzy drinks or crisps in schools. Another radical suggestion is that children's lunchboxes should be vetted for any unhealthy contents.

Jane Davidson, minister for education, lifelong learning and skills, said at the end of the consultation last year: "Diet in childhood plays an essential role in growth and development of current and future well-being, educational performance and avoidance of chronic disease throughout life."

But some have criticised the government's plans, saying they are too heavy-handed.

Gareth Jones, Welsh secretary of the Association of Schools and College Leaders Cymru, claimed an outright ban on junk food could act as "forbidden fruit" to young children and teenagers, who would get the food elsewhere.

"In reality, bans are a waste of time if they cannot be effectively policed," he said.

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