“All children deserve an environment that supports the formation of healthy dietary and lifestyle habits for optimal growth and long-term well being”. All EU countries have now set rules for healthy eating habits in schools, including measures to restrict or completely ban sweets and salty snacks, says study covering 28 Member States plus Norway and Switzerland.
The EU countries recognize the importance of school meals in the health and development of children and have rules for healthy eating habits in schools, such as the prohibition of selling sugary drinks or control the portion of food provided, the study concludes.
The work, published by the Joint Research Centre of the EU (JCR), is part of the aim of helping to reduce childhood obesity, and for the first time, they did a survey of the food policies in the European Schools, which concluded that more than 90% employ food-based standards to ensure balanced menus, 76% is followed by portion size guidance and 68% define the nutritional value of meals.
The study also shows that even that all the 30 countries adopted different policies and have differences in the way of providing food, the European countries recognize the importance of school meals to the health, development and educational achievement of children. Despite all their differences, the common primary aim is to improve child nutrition, to teach healthy diet and lifestyle habits and to reduce or prevent child obesity.
Recommendations regarding the provision of drinks are very common (65-82% ), the majority are in favor of free access to fresh water and the limitation or prohibition of sugary soft drinks, according to the information. Most countries banned the vending machines in schools.
The European Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg, recalls that, in Europe, nearly one in three children aged 6-9 years was overweight or obese in 2010, compared to one in four children in 2008, and, therefore, run the risk of contracting a number of preventable diseases such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer later in life. Based on this statistics an urgent improvement in eating lifestyle is needed.
Schools have a great impact on the improvements of healthy eating habits and are fundamental partners in efforts to encourage children to adopt healthy eating habits that contribute to grow in good health, have good academic performance and fully develop their capabilities.
The study maps EU school food policies (SFP) was carried out with the help of the EU High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity to support the 2007 EU Strategy on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related health issues, as well as the EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity 2014-2020, relating at least four of eight areas for action , namely: 1) support a healthy start in life; 2) promote healthier environments, especially in schools and pre schools; 3) make the healthy option the easier option; and 4) restrict marketing and advertising to children.
EPHA analysed the new Mapping of National School Food Policies across the EU28 plus Norway and Switzerland and alike in the case of the Action Plan on Childhood Obesity2014-2020, EPHA welcomes the new SFP by the European Commission, the World Health Organization and the UN for launching strategies on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related issues on children.
It is extremely important to educate children from a very early age on the importance of a good nutrition, balanced and healthy diet for their development and to prevent future diseases. Improving the nutrition-related quality of life and making healthy life expectancy more equitable within and between Member States is one of common priorities and that is what EPHA and others NGOs have been asking for in the past several years.