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Child obesity: a weighty problem

28 Aug

I           The growth of obesity

I promise you that I am not a ‘fattist’! Some of my best friends and colleagues are fat.  However, we need to confront a situation which is not doing us any good.

Discriminating against people because of their race or gender is unfair.   People don’t have the option of being male or female, black, white or any of the shades in between.  However, we do have the choice in deciding what and how much we eat.

Would you say that we discriminate unfairly against smokers by banning them from smoking indoors?  No.  If they want to harm themselves, so be it.  The problem is they harm others – even when they smoke on our thoroughfares, polluting the air we breathe when taking a walk.   I resent having to share a bus-stop, for instance, with a “chimney” as the smoke damages my health.

In the same way, people who are overweight or morbidly obese disadvantage others in myriad ways.   For instance, consider the space they consume in trains, tubes, buses and, yes, even in aeroplanes.   When an obese person is hospitalised, special wheelchairs have to be rolled out to accommodate their bulk.   They need larger than usual beds. They also pose a huge expense to the National Health Service (NHS) because of weight-related illnesses.    Continue reading

Free School Meals for Infant Pupils

2 Jan

On Thursday, 5 December 2013 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, confirmed in his autumn statement that there will be extra “financial resources to fund the expansion of free school meals to all school children in reception, year 1 and year 2”, as previously announced by the Deputy Prime Minster, Nick Clegg.  (See here.)

The government will be providing the Department for Education (DfE) £450 million in 2014/15 and £635 million in 2015/16 to fund this commitment. This will be new money in the DfE budget. The government will also make £150m of capital available to ensure that schools can build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary.

Before the announcement, concerns were raised about the source of this ‘additional’ funding. The government has now declared that £70m of the capital allocation will be new money from the Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and around £80m will be from unspent DfE maintenance budgets.

The full statement can be viewed here.

On a visit to a primary school in Lambeth, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Early on I made it very clear that universal free school meals would be my personal priority in this Autumn Statement and I’m proud that we are now delivering it. From the start of the next school year, every single infant school pupil will be able to sit down to a free school lunch.

“Today, I can announce that we’re providing more than £1 billion to ensure children get a healthy meal in the middle of the day. We’re also making sure that schools are not left out of pocket by putting £150 million on the table to fund new kitchen and dining facilities where they are needed.

“Every child deserves the best possible start in life, and at the same time we are doing all we can to help ease the pressure on household budgets. This not only encourages positive eating habits and helps improve concentration and performance in the classroom, but this will also mean significant savings for families.

“Providing universal free school meals will help give every child the future they deserve, building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

“Universal free school meals for primary school pupils were a key recommendation in a recent review of school food produced independently for the DfE. The School Food Plan, published by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent in July this year, recommended that the government embark on a phased roll out of free school meals for all children in all primary schools.

“The School Food Plan presented evidence that this would lead to positive improvements in health, attainment and social cohesion, and help families with the cost of living:

(a)        the average school meal costs £437 per child per year and

(b)        many children on low incomes are not eligible for free school meals: approximately four out of 10 children (from all age groups) living in poverty are not eligible.”