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Healthy food in schools essential for learning and future wellbeing


Public Health Agency

Type: News
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

A healthier approach to food in schools is being taken to improve learning opportunities and health and wellbeing by encouraging better eating habits among children.The 'Food in Schools' conference, held at Stranmillis University College, Belfast, today [26 February] brought together Education Minister John O'Dowd and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride in support of the action needed to provide children with healthier food choices and nutritional information to support a healthier diet.The half-day event provided senior school management, staff and members of school boards of governors with advice on creating a framework to implement a healthy eating policy in their schools.Minister O'Dowd said: "Good nutrition is essential for cognitive development and concentration, positively impacting on behaviour and attendance at school.  The whole-school approach will ensure that children are taught about healthy eating in the classroom and that this is reflected in the food available to them within their school."A school lunch can account for a third of a child's daily nutrient intake and in the current economic climate the provision of healthy school lunches is of particular importance for children from low income households and for those in poverty."I welcome the work that has been done to date on delivering the Food in Schools Policy and I commend schools who have already taken forward a wide range of actions to support healthy eating which will ultimately generate many education and health benefits for children and young people."The conference follows on from the launch of the Healthy Food for Healthy Outcomes: Food in Schools Policy in September 2013. The policy document developed jointly by the Department of Education (DE) and Department of Health (DHSSPS) draws together a number of existing strategies and encourages a 'whole school approach' to all food and drink provided and consumed in schools.The policy ensures that children have the opportunity to benefit from a healthy balanced diet, which can aid learning and lead to improved educational outcomes. It also requires that every school should have their own whole-school food policy in place by September 2014. Nursery schools that receive funding from the Department of Education must also follow this policy.Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride added: "The school setting is where our children spend a substantial proportion of their time and it is therefore vital that schools put into practice what they are teaching to their pupils. This can be a challenge in itself as we strive to encourage children and young people to choose the healthier option without taking choice away from them. Sweets and crisps have their place, just not every day with every meal."I believe that this work on food in schools will have an impact not only on our children, but on the wider population. Children can learn from the good example set by their parents and similarly parents can learn from what their children learn at school or clubs. Everyone needs to play their part and it is clear that we need a wider cultural shift in the way we nourish and raise our children."Mary Black, Assistant Director for Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement at the PHA, said: "A healthy, balanced diet is vital for a child's development and for long-term health and wellbeing. Ensuring that there is access to healthy food and that children are equipped with the right nutrition knowledge from an early age is a key step in tackling obesity in our society. Developing healthier food habits that last into adult years can reduce the risk of developing obesity-related health conditions."Since the launch of the Food in Schools Policy, initiatives such as the PHA's recent 'Healthy Breaks' scheme are helping to ensure that all pupils benefit from improved knowledge about healthier eating and health-promoting behaviours."





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Public Health Agency. (2014) Healthy food in schools essential for learning and future wellbeing [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 24th June 2019].


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