Saturday, December 5, 2009

Letter in defence of the free school meals trial in Islington

Not sure if free school meals for all is the way forward? Read the letter below and see if it changes your mind. It is a letter sent to the Islington Tribune where it looks like the free school meal trial is being threatened.

Dear Tribune,

Party politics is getting in the way of children's health.

Certainly, Labour were sharp to take advantage of a temporary disarray in the Lib Dems to force through their plan for universal free school meals. But the Lib Dems are being petty and vengeful in threatening to scrap the scheme if they are re-elected.

Free school meals deserve the support of every political party. They are the principal weapon we have to stop the rapid rise in childhood obesity. The obesity epidemic in Britain is our Number One public health problem. It affects the vast majority of families, the affluent as well as the poor.

We have to cut obesity now before we suffer an epidemic in diabetes too --- for that is coming along a few years behind. Diabetes is a very expensive disease to treat. It means amputations, blindness, kidney failure. Having millions of diabetics, needing lifelong care from childhood, would break the bank of the NHS.

Primary school meals are a cost-effective investment in future health. Spending money on children's diet now will save us a fortune in a decade's time. Islington Primary Care Trust should remind the Council of these hard economic facts.

So we need to help all Islington's children. Universal free meals in primary schools are the most effective instrument we have to do this.

They have been a great success in Scotland, not only in increasing take up, but also in weaning kids off breakfasts of Mars bars and afternoon snacks of chips. The programme affects what children eat outside school, as well as inside. This is critical because research shows that children begin spending their pocket money on junk food from age nine!

The Libs Dems are hinting they will put the scrapping of free meals into their election manifesto. I urge them to reconsider. Indeed, I hope all parties will commit themselves to continuing the plan.

But the message to Islington parents is clear. Vote for whichever party you like, so long as it promises to continue providing free school meals to all primary school children. That would not just be good of your pocketbook now, it also would be good for your children in the long term.

Jack Winkler

Prof J T Winkler
Director, Nutrition Policy Unit
London Metropolitan University


A Cuban In London said...

Just when you thought that free school meals were safe and on the way to becoming healthier (or should I write 'healthy'?) this comes. Many thanks for flagging up this issue.