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Over a decade after Jamie Oliver’s campaign against junk food, the government is continuing to tackle an obesity ‘epidemic’ in schools – but is enough being done to tackle poor quality food in colleges?
Fatty foods over the counter, vending machines and fast-food premises setting up nearby colleges continue to put pressure on the institutions to promote quality food.
And education secretary Justine Greening’s plans to inject £415 million of cash into primary, secondary schools and sixth form colleges did not offer provisions for further education institutions.
Last year funding for the Education Funding Agency (EFA) was cut by 2.2pc, meaning a change in food standards in colleges may be slow due to budget constraints.
According to the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), 40 per cent of schools are within walking distance to fast food outlets.
The RSPH’s findings also revealed that one in four children had takeaway orders delivered to their schools.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Government recognises the importance of helping children and young people lead healthier lives.
“The ‘Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action’ report was published last year to improve the well-being of children, and contribute towards reducing future pressures on the NHS.
“The plan will help children and families to recognise and make healthier choices and be more active, supported by schools and the NHS.”
Oliver’s campaign resulted in processed meats, sweets, soda and crisps being banned from schools.
The ban, which came into force in 2006, seemed to neglect colleges in higher education, meaning vending machines filled with chocolates and snacks with high levels of saturated fats can still populate these schools.
A move to combat the growing obesity problem in the country, in a report by the government, was estimated to cost the NHS £5.1bn in 2015.
In recent months, the government has focused its attention on younger schoolchildren – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced a policy to provide free school meals for all primary schools.
As the current policy stands, pupils in the first three years of primary education receive free meals.
In England 16-year-olds must remain in some form of education until they reach the age of 18, unless they begin an apprenticeship or work.
People in this age group are believed to be the most vulnerable to unhealthy diets.
The government’s child obesity plan highlights that a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight and younger generations are staying obese for longer.
Obese adults are more likely to contract type-2 diabetes, and are not only prone to physical threats like heart attacks, but mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.