School ‘no fry zones’ urged to tackle childhood obesity

Both the Irish Heart Foundation and Social Justice Ireland are seeking the introduction of ‘no fry zones’ within one kilometre of schools in order to tackle the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

At present, 75% of Irish schools have at least one and 30% have at least five fast food outlets within 1km, according to a joint IHF and SJI report published yesterday.

The organisations are also seeking state subsidies for fruit and vegetables, a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks and a ban on advertising of products high in fat, sugar and salt on TV before 9pm.

According to the report, the cost of obesity could more than quadruple within the next 15 years to a total of €1,175 a year for every man woman and child in the State, unless more is done.

A review of evidence on obesity and food poverty in Ireland carried out by the two organisations shows that total costs are set to rise from an annual burden of €1.13 billion to €5.4bn by 2030 unless remedial action is taken.

“Any failure to take the decisive action is unthinkable,” said IHF head of advocacy, Chris Macey. “We have to question whether enough is being done to counter this threat.”

Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst with SJI said: “We are proposing that Government implement policies to reduce the population’s body mass index by 5% by 2020.”

To achieve this, the organisations want the Government to introduce a sugar-sweetened drinks tax in Budget 2016 and to use the revenue of up to €134m generated to subsidise fruit and vegetables.

A seven-point plan outlined by both organisations includes the removal of all junk food from schools and an improvement in physical education to ensure that children get 60 minutes of exercise a day.

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