Who has the responsibility to educate kids about healthy food choices?
Last year when Miss 5 was at kindy she learnt about healthy foods. The teachers taught the children to differentiate foods as ‘everyday foods’ and ‘sometimes foods’. Miss 5 was that engrossed in her food education that she came home one day and asked about the sugar content of her afternoon tea! I was so grateful to her kindy teachers for reinforcing the healthy practices I try to teach in the home.
With the childhood obesity epidemic being a prevalent concern for Australia, I believe it is up to both parents and schools to support each other in children’s food-related education. This is why I was so pleased to recently read in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) that the NSW State Government are planning to overhaul the rating systems for foods in school tuckshops.
Up until now, school tuckshops across Australia have been using what is known as the ‘traffic light system’. That is, foods are rated as ‘green’ if they have a high nutritional content, ‘orange’ if they meet the minimum nutritional requirements and ‘red’ if they have a very low nutritional content. These ‘red’ foods are only to be sold in schools on occasional ‘red food days’ as opposed to everyday food like those deemed ‘orange’ and ‘green’. Now, according to the SMH, the NSW Government are planning to remove this system and implement a star rating system. SMH reported that only food which obtains a 3.5-star rating or higher will be allowed to be sold at school canteens across NSW. While I am all for this new system as it will be bringing higher quality foods into canteens, it does cause me to wonder if the onus of responsibility for children’s food education is being equally shared between parents and schools?
I recently had a conversation with one of my friends about the traffic light system. My friend noted that our school uses a pre-order system for lunch purchases as well as accepting over the counter orders from children on the days which tuckshop is open. The most obvious thing that comes to mind with the pre-order system is the fact that the parents are the ones who are ordering the food for the child. My friend noted that if the parent is the one ordering the items which would fall in the ‘orange’ or ‘red’ category then the lessons which we are teaching the children, about healthy choices, are falling flat: because they are not being backed up by the parents.
So, while overhauling the school tuckshop practices is a great step in the right direction, perhaps more needs to be done to educate parents. For our part in the education of parents, here’s a very brief overview of the consequences of poor food choices for children, taken from Education Queensland’s Smart Choices campaign: “…around a quarter of our children are overweight or obese. This is a serious issue as overweight or obese [children] carry a great risk of a number of immediate and long-term health and psychological problems. …it also affects oral health and contributes to the high rates of tooth decay in Queensland children.” (Smart Choices 2016 pg. 2).
Some of the health risks to children can include cardiovascular problems, diabetes, back and knee problems amongst other things. Further, behavioural issues can also be brought about due to higher sugar contents and increased amounts of preservatives found in ‘red’ foods.
If you would like to read the Smart Choices brochure you can find the link here. Or for something a little lighter but with the same message see the attached video anthem from Jamie Oliver’s food revolution day [here].
For more information on the effects of food on your dental hygiene, please do not hesitate to contact KIDS. Alternatively, complete the form below, and one of our friendly team members will contact you.
References: Smith, A. (2017), “Freshly Made Food must be on the menu for NSW School Canteens”, Sydney Morning Herald. [online]
Queensland Department of Education and Training (2016), “Smart Choices – Health Food and Drink Supply Strategy for Queensland Schools”, Queensland Government. [online]