Headlines: April 21st, 2008

A joint initiative by Liverpool City Council and the local Primary Care Trust will see every secondary school in the city getting 10,000 pounds to improve school food and the dining rooms in which it is served. The payments are part of a two million pound campaign to promote better health and tackle the rise of obesity in school children.

The council and the PCT hope giving the money to schools will encourage more children to have school meals by making the food more nutritious and tasty. It will also be used to educate pupils, staff and parents to make healthy food choices and take more exercise. It is expected that the money will be used to buy dishwashers, cutlery, ovens, art displays and furniture as well as improving food.

Other key elements of the strategy include setting up a team of specialist food advisors to visit schools to check the nutritional value of their food and to organise taste tests to encourage pupils to try new food. More water coolers will be installed and schools will be offered fruit vending machines. Salad bars will also be introduced in all primary schools. The initiative will also see the introduction of a cashless payment system in secondary schools to encourage children entitled to free meals and those from low income families to eat school lunches.

Liverpool City Council’s Executive Director for Children’s Services, Stuart Smith, said it was important to educate children about healthy eating and active lifestyles. “There is a huge amount of research which shows that children’s health and wellbeing affects attendance, academic attainment and helps improve behaviour. The type of food eaten during the day directly affects concentration levels,” he added.

One of the main priorities of the council’s Children and Young People plan is to reduce levels of obesity by 10 per cent in 11 year olds by 2009. Findings in 2007 showed that at Year 6 just over 20 per cent of boys and almost 15 per cent of girls in the city were obese.