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‘Immediate action’ needed in schools to tackle record obesity rates

vegetables at school

New research released yesterday shows that obesity rates in children are at a record high in the UK, leading ProVeg UK to call on schools to adapt their menus.

Figures from Public Health England indicate that the proportion of children aged between 10 and 11 years old with severe obesity has never been higher and it has called for bold measures to tackle the growing threat to children’s health.

Amy Odene, Campaign Manager for ProVeg UK commented: “Establishing healthy eating habits early in life is essential and we believe that these behaviours should be nurtured at school. Our School Plates campaign has identified primary schools and councils across the UK serving meals high in saturated fat and sugar, with little or no emphasis placed onto vegetables and the importance of more plant-based options.

“During our campaign we have seen members of school staff taking themselves off school meals as a weight loss exercise due to the high fat, sugar and calorific content of the school lunch. Unfortunately, primary school children don’t have that choice and for some, the free school meal will be healthiest meal they consume in that day.”

The World Health Organisation has highlighted childhood obesity as one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. It identifies three ways in which to tackle the issue, two of which are being tackled by the government (reducing the intake of fat and sugar) and one which is not: increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts.

“We have designed our campaign around making sure that schools and councils are able to make small changes towards a more plant-based offering which will make a huge difference to the health of their pupils, the health of the planet and save them money,” Amy continued.

“We are having great success with the campaign so far and this report has only further emphasised the need for immediate action within the school meal provision nationwide.”

ProVeg UK recently launched its School Plates campaign, which calls on schools to make five small changes, including having one meat-free day a week and increasing the amount of plant-based foods. The changes are neither difficult, not time consuming to adopt and can be integrated into the next menu cycle with no disruption to the school.

The organisation is also offering free plant-based chef training and is offering schools the option of free consultations with a nutritionist to ensure the meals are healthy and nutritious.

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