Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pies not the problem - parental responsibility is

The New Zealand Herald today complains about the "Fat still flowing over tuckshop counters" but basically misses the point that a healthy diet is not one that eschews pies / hot dogs / sausage rolls etc - but one that identifies these things as a "treat" that should be eaten on occasion and not as the staple lunch of a child.  And this is where the real battle lies and so called child advocates continue to provide IMHO completely flawed advice.

The parent that gives their child money every day to buy their own lunch is instantly giving the power of choice to that child and abdicating their responsibility of ensuring that they get a healthy meal.  If the school tuckshop stops selling pies and / or other foods that children do not naturally want to eat then they will just tend to hoard their money and spend it on pies after school or sweets etc.  It is unlikely that a child that is given money every day has the necessary teaching and self-discipline to do otherwise.

What should also be added to this debate is the correlation between child obesity by ethnicity by parental employment status.  In my school days it was certainly the case that the children who could be guaranteed to be buying tuckshop lunches each day were those with parents on the benefit.  The next most likely were the "middle class kids".  The rich kids were those most likely to have packed lunches of fruit / sandwiches / etc - while the "poor kids" were most likely to have fruit pottles / yoghurt / etc.  I wonder how much that has changed.

The blame should not be on the schools for not providing healthy food choices - it should be on the parents.  And because the food provided by tuck shops is invariably more expensive than healthy options provided from a supermarket, any arguments about them being necessary for lower income children is false.
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