School dinners fail to deliver

schooldinnerSeventy-five percent of Scottish primary schools are breaking the new laws regarding healthy school dinners.

A recent inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HME) across thirty-four Scottish schools showed that only a quarter of them were sticking to the strict guidelines introduced by the Government last September.

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram launched the guide, which was to focus on diet and health promotion in schools and to give instructions on the new requirements while offering advice for caterers on the nutritional content of meals. However, despite this help and information, a lack of awareness on the part of staff has been blamed for the three quarters of schools still serving unhealthy food. Excessive levels of sugar, salt and saturated fat are still on the menu.

According to the NHS website Change for Life, the maximum amount of salt a child aged between 7 and 10 years should consume per day is 5 grams, and for those between the ages of 4 and 6, it should be no more than 3 grams. At the moment, we eat, on average, 8.6 grams per day.

Added to this, The Scottish Health Survey conducted in 2003 showed that eighty percent of children are eating too much sugar, ninety percent too much fat, and that one third of children are overweight or obese.

In a bid to combat these worrying findings, schools have been asked to make a number of changes to the way food is served.

Such alterations include:

– whole milk should be replaced by semi-skimmed;

– fatty spreads and oils should be replaced by non-fat alternatives;

– more attention should be paid to the amount of sodium and sugar added to food.

The environment in modern-day Scotland has been described as ‘obesogenic’ and approximately £171 million is spent treating obesity-related illnesses each year. These health and wellbeing guidelines will have to be followed in order for the country to make any significant cut in the obesity epidemic.