'Chips with everything' generation will pay price in years to come

12th December 1997 at 00:00
As a parent, a school governor and a GP I feel very concerned about the nutrition and levels of fitness in the present generation. I am sure that they will be paying the price in adulthood. A random sample of what seven Year 7 students had for lunch one day showed six had had cans of fizzy drink, three had had crisps, two chose sausage rolls and one had eaten nothing.

Cans of fizzy drink cost 40p - a large proportion of most students' lunch money. The canteen sells a good selection of healthy food at reasonable prices, but observing pupils making choices confirmed my suspicion that most choose chips and less healthy pastry-based foods and biscuits. Hardly any choose fruit or salad. The recommendation is that to reduce the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer a healthy diet should include five portions of fruit or vegetables a day.

I also feel concerned about the lack of calcium in the diet. Calcium is found in dairy products and is essential for healthy bones. Insufficient calcium in adolescence can increase the risk of osteoporosis which leads to broken wrists and hips and curvature of the spine in later life.

There are also concerns nationally about the physical fitness of many young people who take less exercise than previous generations. One might have expected rural young people to be less affected than their urban counterparts, but this does not appear to be the case. Our recent Office for Standards in Education report stated that "a significant number of pupils lack stamina and find sustained swimming or running difficult to maintain".

The constraints of the national curriculum make it difficult for schools and colleges to deal with this alone.

Transport issues and lack of facilities limit opportunities open to our rural young people but as parents we should be encouraging our sons and daughters to take part in the recreational sporting activities which are available and increasing the number of journeys made on foot or bicycle, for example, would be an easy way of improving fitness.

ANNE BEER

Parent governor Community College Chulmleigh Devon

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