Schools' healthy food rule scrapped

21:44, Mar 07 2009

School's back, and so are pies, chippies and sugary soft drinks.

The Government has scrapped a guideline requiring schools to sell only healthy food and has walked into criticism from nutritionists and anti-obesity campaigners.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said yesterday that the guideline, introduced last year, had caused confusion about what could be sold at school fundraisers.

"There was a great deal of angst about things like, when you're having a school gala, can you have a sausage sizzle on site, can you lay down a hangi?"

It was up to parents and students to make decisions about healthy food, Mrs Tolley said.

"It's not teachers' responsibility to act as food police.


"If we want to start changing behaviour, that's got to start happening at home."

Mrs Tolley said that, in some circumstances, junk food was not always an unhealthy option. "For the kid who's just been doing two hours of rugby practice and needs that instant hit of carbohydrates, a pie might not be a bad thing."

However, Wellington nutritionist Sarah Burkhart said junk food was never a good option after exercise. "[A pie] isn't a high carbohydrate food source. That's actually one of the worst things you could [eat]."

Green MP Sue Kedgley said removing the guideline was "astonishingly stupid". Most schools had accepted it and were starting to see positive changes, which would now be reversed.

Obesity Action Coalition executive director Leigh Sturgiss said it was counterintuitive that schools were required to promote healthy eating, but able to sell junk food at tuck shops.

However, principals who spoke to The Dominion Post yesterday said they did not plan to put junk food back on tuck-shop menus now that the ban had been lifted.

Wellington East Girls' College principal Sally Haughton said she had been sceptical when the guideline was brought in but it had had a positive effect. "We certainly won't be rolling back [changes]."

Wellington College deputy principal Dave Ashby said he was pleased that more control had been handed back to school boards, but said the college would probably keep its new healthy menu.

"Schools have got a responsibility to young people. I don't think we're going to chuck it all in now."

Wellington College pupils had mixed reactions to the ban's lifting.

Year 13 student Scott Archer, 17, said he was "quite gutted" when lollies were removed from the tuck shop last year, but he now supported the ban.

"I don't agree with [lifting it]. It's actually kind of good to have the temptation taken away."

But Chamika Gajanayaka, also 17, said it was up to pupils to decide what they wanted to eat.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the Government was working on other measures to tackle obesity.

"There will be a greater emphasis on the physical activity side of the obesity issue, and there will be more announcements once plans have been firmed up."


The Dominion Post