Retailers contributing to obesity crisis

by Alex Holt | 20 January, 2016 12:42 pm

Banning fast food shops near schools “will not be enough” to tackle childhood obesity, according to academics at the University of Hertfordshire; retailers also have a major role to play in encouraging young people to make healthier food choices.

Over the last decade, much has been done to improve school meals with national legislation limiting the sale of food high in fat, sugar and salt – but this may be having unintended consequences.

Whilst the quality of food in schools has increased dramatically, the concentration of convenience stores, fast food outlets and supermarkets, particularly in areas of relative socio-economic deprivation, are drawing students away from healthier options in search of a fast food fix.

The new research focuses on young people’s food and drink purchasing behaviours within close proximity to the school and sets out recommendations for stakeholders to act.

Wendy Wills, Lead Research for Food and Public Health Research at the University of Hertfordshire, commented: “The food and drink sold on the high street to young people is a source of concern, in terms of the current public health agenda around obesity and nutrition. However, simply banning fast food outlets close to schools will not be enough to bring about change.”

“We need a thoughtful but hard hitting approach that engages retailers as well as young people, schools and parents to create a wholesale shift in expectation about what kinds of food and drink we want our children and teenagers to buy.”

The researchers stressed that retailers need to be motivated to provide and promote healthier options, and to offer alternatives to cheap ‘supersized’ crisps and sugary drinks to help drive down obesity. They also highlighted the need for school cafeterias to provide a better dining experience – a crucial factor in improving purchasing habits.

The full briefing paper – “Within Arm’s Reach: School Neighbourhoods and Young People’s Food Choices” is available here[1].

If your school needs help in developing a progressive food and drink policy that can make a real difference to the diets and health of your children, please contact[2]  or call us on 0151 237 2686 for more information.

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