Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Schools tackle childhood obesity

A number of Sunshine Coast schools are taking childhood obesity into their own hands by implementing rigorous policies banning junk food and promoting healthy eating.

While a new preventative health report is calling for a 10 per cent tax on junk food, Sunshine Coast schools believe the real answer is to restrict children from accessing unhealthy foods.

Chevellum State Primary School is among many schools refusing to sell junk food at the school tuckshop.

“Everything we sell is made from scratch; handmade here everyday from fresh, local produce,” tuckshop convenor Sarah Jacobson said.

“We don’t sell confectionery, chocolate, cake, deep-fried foods, chips, soft drink or anything else that can be classified as junk food.”

Chevellum State Primary is also a recipient of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden School program, a grant which funds vegetable gardens and kitchens teaching children to grow, harvest, and cook their own fruit and vegetables.

Chevellum State Primary School's community garden helps children learn about fresh produce.

Chevellum State Primary School's community garden helps children learn about fresh produce. (Photo: Marnie Gerrard)

Results from the National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey found that in 2009 one in every four children aged from 2 – 16 were overweight or obese.

Prep teacher Sage Parkes says it is important to get children thinking about healthy foods from a very young age.

“Simple rules like our ‘no litter lunches’, which rewards children for bringing lunch in reusable Tupperware containers – free from plastic or paper wrappers – really changes their mindsets,” Ms Parkes said.

“They start recognising packets of chips and muesli bars as ‘bad’ foods that will prevent them from getting a sticker and they ask their parents not to buy them.”

Many schools are also introducing ‘cashless canteens’ where students use a swipe card that has been loaded with money online, rather than paying in cash.

This online system allows parents to monitor their child’s eating habits, ban the purchase of particular foods, and ensures that lunch money is not being spent elsewhere on junk food.

The Assessing Cost Effectiveness of Prevention report has highlighted the need for preventative health measures, recommending the government place taxes on junk food like alcohol and cigarettes.

Leader of the ACE-Prevention study, Professor Theo Vos, says there is evidence that if the price of something goes up then consumption goes down.

“It [the tax] would be on all food groups that are non-core, like sugary drinks, biscuits, crisps, and those sorts of products,” he said.

Other recommendations by the ACE-Prevention report included limiting salt levels in bread, margarine and cereals, increasing alcohol tax, a ban on alcohol ads and an increased drinking age of 21.

The report is a result of five years of research by industry experts, which was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.