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Healthy Food in Schools in Glasgow: New Findings

March 27, 2007 10:30 AM

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Glasgow City Council will today launch new research findings which reveal Glasgow’s progress in encouraging primary school pupils to eat healthily in school.
The Leader of the City Council, Steven Purcell along with senior officials and other experts in the field will share the stage to present Glasgow’s approach and to discuss the findings in the context of growing measures to improve the poor diet of Scottish children.
The research shows that healthy food and drinks are successfully provided and
promoted across the school day. Direct and Care Services (responsible for Glasgow City Council’s school meals service) provide a free, open access breakfast service daily, every pupil receives a portion of free, fresh fruit during each school day and access to chilled drinking water as well as a healthy lunch. School staff actively encourage pupils to try different foods and do their best to make school mealtimes an enjoyable experience. Although the physical surroundings of schools can be very different, many schools make the most of these through the creative use of space as well as colourful art work and displays on the walls of dining areas.
However, this research also reveals that children still avoid eating vegetables and the majority of them bring crisps, sweets or chocolate into school to eat during break time.
Given that the Glasgow Centre for Population Health’s recent ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ report showed that almost six out of ten five year-olds have tooth decay and that childhood obesity levels are increasing, this is a worrying finding.
Fiona Crawford, Public Health Programme Manager at GCPH who co-ordinated the research said: “School food policy has been recognised for over a century as being important for children’s health. Glasgow City Council currently provides a spectrum of initiatives designed to provide and promote healthy food and drinks throughout Glasgow schools. This research shows that the Council is making excellent progress in this respect. The challenge remains to influence what children bring into school to eat as a break time snack as it is clear that this is largely unhealthy”.
Councillor Aileen Colleran, Executive Member for Parks and Facilities at Glasgow City Council, said: “This research has provided Direct and Care Services with very valuable information that we can use to further improve our service and to plan future initiatives.
“The study also highlights examples of good practice that should prove useful to the wider primary school sector. We have already drawn up an action plan in response to findings which we are currently implementing – this action plan includes a proposal for individual home/school agreements to work towards pupils bringing healthier break time snacks into school”.
Dr Carol Tannahill, Director of the GCPH who were behind the research said:
“Scotland does not have a good record in healthy eating and we know that tooth decay and obesity are serious public health issues for children. Schools have great potential in providing and promoting healthy food and drinks during the school day and this research shows that this has been a success story in Glasgow. We need to know more about the impact of school based initiatives on children’s diets in their homes and on their families. The next stage of the research will help us to do just that.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health (www.gcph.co.uk) is a research and development organisation set up in 2004 as part of the Scottish Executive’s
programme to step up health improvement in Scotland. The Centre is a partnership between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow City Council and the University of Glasgow, supported by the Scottish Executive and is led by Dr Carol Tannahill, Director.
2. Key findings from the research are:
• The physical and social environment exerts an important influence on pupils’ uptake and experience of school meals.
• Effective management and co-ordination by school staff during lunchtime has a
positive impact on pupils’ experience of lunch and on the general atmosphere in
school dining rooms. Active encouragement by teaching and catering staff as well as practical steps to make healthy foods easily accessible and attractive to pupils can increase uptake.
• Open access to a free breakfast service in deprived urban areas can provide children from these areas with a healthy start to the school day.
• The majority of primary school pupils bring crisps, sweets or chocolate into school to eat during break time.
• The consumption of fresh chilled water during mealtimes is still relatively low despite the presence of water coolers although pupils drink water at other points during the school day.
• Free fruit distribution during the school day is a successful way of encouraging pupils to eat fruit regularly at school.
• Vegetables remain an unpopular food choice with children – the provision of
vegetables by ‘stealth’ as part of meals in parallel with hands-on, creative,
educational interventions needs to continue to promote uptake.
3. ‘Hungry for Success,’ the report of the Scottish Executive’s Expert Panel on School Meals was published in 2002 and set out a vision for a revitalised school meals service in Scotland. It provided national guidelines and standards for school meals in primary and secondary schools across Scotland. Importantly, the report called for a whole-child, whole-school approach to food, complementing government commitment to make all schools health promoting schools by 2007. The Nutrition and Health Promotion (Scotland) Bill will provide further incentive and leadership to ensure that school based provision and promotion of healthy food and drinks continues to develop using a child centred, whole school approach in keeping with the principles behind the health promoting school model.
4. A copy of the research briefing paper can be accessed at:
Issued by: The Glasgow Centre for Population Health
Contact: Valerie Millar, Communications Manager
Tel: 0141 221 9439 ; Mobile: 07812 205 246
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