Pam and I have watched Jamie’s Food Revolution where he tries to change the eating habits of Americans. The programme centres on a town which Jamie says is the unhealthiest in America and the problem starts with school meals. Jamie tries to convince the authorities to give up on cheap processed food, ban flavoured milk and introduce food prepared from fresh ingredients.
Six months on, the children are back to bad eating habits as many parents opt to send their children to school with a packed lunch filled with junk food.
Prior to his American trip, Jamie tried the same thing in the UK with a similar result. There was a change in habits but it did not last.
The fact is, statistics show that Jamie is right. Almost a fifth of UK children are obese by the time they leave primary school and the problem is worse in London. The incidence of type 2 diabetes in America is spiralling out of control. Parents are literally killing their children with kindness by giving them the wrong kind of food – sugary drinks, sugar laden sweets and high cholesterol convenience food just to placate the little blighters.
In the UK the government are now considering a plan to ban packed lunches from schools and bar pupils from leaving school during breaks. Instead, they will be forced to enjoy a healthy meal in the school canteen and the teachers will be encouraged to join them.
When I was at Anfield, the canteen was run by a commercial company who of course wanted to make a profit. We tried to ban chips and tried to introduce some healthy alternatives to the burgers and pasties that the children homed in on. Sadly though, the take up for healthy food was zero – e.g. the delicious cauliflower cheese was still there at the end of lunchtime. In fact, apart from baked beans, any vegetables that the canteen tried to serve were totally ignored. In the end we had to give up because the company could not afford to continue preparing food that was thrown away at the end of lunchtime.
Although the government are planning to do the right thing, I fear it will all end in tears and the pension problem caused by people living too long will become a thing of the past.