Locked in for a healthier lunch

14th September 2007 at 01:00
But poor on-site facilities let down policies to cut out junk food

A HEADTEACHER at a Denbighshire school that has kept its children in at lunchtime for the past 30 years says cramped conditions and long queues mean some of the 550 children eat badly despite the introduction of healthier menus.

His comments will come as a blow to officials who believe locking up pupils in the lunch hour stops them buying junk food outside. Meurig Rees, head of Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph, said the introduction of healthy eating in the school last year is failing to have enough impact because of a lack of modern facilities.

"It's not fair to say that children will be locked in under the plans. What Denbighshire wants to do is keep pupils on site at lunchtime," he said. "Unfortunately, good practice here cannot be followed up because of poor facilities."

His concerns echo those of Elin Cullen, head of resources management at Carmarthenshire local authority, who says the biggest problem with the healthy-eating revolution is outdated facilities (TES Cymru, August 24).

Ms Cullen said overhauling the cafe culture to modern "old-style" dinner halls would be costly but was essential to meet the Assembly government's recommendations in the Appetite for Life report.

Last week, it was reported that TV chef Jamie Oliver has thrown his weight behind the plans to shut the gates during the lunch hour, although officials were said to be annoyed that school dinner uptake was down after healthier meals were introduced.

A report before Denbighshire council last week says: "One of the key issues affecting the uptake of school meals at secondary level is thought to be the lunchtime policies of individual schools.

"The group has developed guidance to retain pupils on the school sites over the lunch break period."

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