Experts: UK Schools Sending Mixed Diet Messages

Jul 15, 2004 04:07 AM EDT

British health experts warn that primary schools are failing to give children consistent messages about healthy eating.

According to a report released by the British Food Standard Agency (FSA), meals provided in schools do not match healthier diet lessons taught in class. As a result, children's awareness of diet and nutrition is poor and what they do learn makes little impact on their choice of food and drink.

Only 6% of kids chose vegetables

The study suggests the majority of schools are meeting nutritional standards and that progress is being made to improve the choice and nutritional quality of food in schools. However, in line with the findings the research indicates that what is being learnt in the classroom is not necessarily being reflected by young people's choices in the lunchroom, with unhealthy options being favored over healthy food.

The survey of 5,695 11 to 16-year-olds at 79 schools showed just 6% of pupils chose a salad or vegetable option. This was despite the fact that 91% of schools included fruit and vegetables on their menus most days of the week and 83% met official nutrition standards all the time.

Teachers lack necessary knowledge

The report also found that teachers and other school staff involved in food and nutrition education lack the necessary knowledge. It suggested that a lack of accurate and up-to-date subject knowledge is a key factor in impeding effective food and nutrition education. Inspectors also raise concerns about the sorts of foods offered in school cafeterias, stating that, ¡°the meals provided in most of the schools did not complement sufficiently the healthy eating messages that the teaching sought to convey.¡±

The report noted that while schools did offer pupils a choice of food, this was not always helpful for furthering the healthy eating message.

In the UK, it is estimated that one in five men and one-quarter of women are obese, and that as many as 30,000 people die prematurely every year from obesity-related conditions.