A CHARITY is calling on second-level schools to replace fizzy drinks with bottled water to help improve the health and lifestyles of their students.
A principals’ representative has given a guarded welcome to the proposal by RedBranch but said it could be difficult to implement or to get teenagers to change their habits.
The charitable company says its initiative will allow schools to dump unhealthy vending machines and gain access to bottled water at a reduced price. In a trial of the programme in the mid-west, it claims 60% of secondary schools have ditched the sale of fizzy drinks.
A recent report by Safefood, the Irish food safety authority, found second-level schools appear to have a more relaxed attitude about carbonated drinks than primary schools, where most pupils of surveyed families were only allowed to bring water or certain juices.
“When water is available and fizzy drink sales are restricted, we see a clear change in the habits of young people – they drink less sugary drinks and consume more water. The feedback from teachers also suggests that getting rid of sugary fizzy beverages improves student behaviour,” said RedBranch chief executive David Egan.
“It is pointless talking to children about a healthy diet as part of the curriculum when junk food is so easily available at school,” he said.
Clive Byrne, director of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, said the initiative should not prove difficult as long as it was being done to encourage a healthy diet.
“However, some schools use vending machines as a means of supplementing their funding, and it could also be difficult to change the mind-set of young people about their drinks habits,” he said.
“But these kind of changes could be brought in if students are consulted and it can be shown to be in their own interest,” said Mr Byrne.
He said some schools have made arrangements with student councils to have funds made by a school from vending machines to go towards sports and other facilities.
RedBranch is a registered charity working with children and young people to explain the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, and to change the school environment so healthy options are easier to access.
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