ANN CAHILL: Class war on eating habits

THE obesity battle is being brought to the school gate with Ireland chosen as one of seven EU countries where a roadshow on the benefits of better eating and more exercise for children will be rolled out.

It’s designed to change children’s eating habits for the better, encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables and take more exercise.

About 22 million children in the EU are overweight and five million are obese.

Weight problems in children are on the increase in Ireland, with one-in-five Irish teens being too heavy or obese. The result is that diabetes and osteoporosis – usually associated with older people – are now showing up in youngsters.

Despite all the warnings, there is no sign of the situation improving, and now public health experts are worried that the recession will make the situation worse as adults turn to cheap, high-fat foods.

The roadshow will reach 18,000 schoolchildren in 180 schools in Ireland and six other countries. It will be involve games, competitions and an interactive treasure hunt on the Tasty Bunch website, that will be open to everyone throughout the EU.

The Belgian tennis champion Justine Henin and eight-year-old swimming record holder Rosolino Cannio will be lending their support to get the message across.

The campaign will run alongside the EU’s School Fruit Scheme, to which the EU contributed €90 million last year, and the School Milk Scheme. It supplied over 300,000 tonnes of milk to schools in 22 member states last year. Now, fruit yoghurts and flavoured cheeses will be included in the scheme.

“It’s clear we must act now,” said Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel.


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