Make pupils' packed lunches more healthy, Wearside MP demands

Sharon Hodgson MP

Sharon Hodgson MP

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A Wearside MP is calling on the Government to do more to tackle the issue of unhealthy foods in schoolchildren’s lunchboxes.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, made the plea after a study commissioned by Flora and carried out by the University of Leeds, revealed that only 1.6% of lunchboxes in England’s primary schools are meeting nutritional standards.

Mrs Hodgson, who is also chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for School Food, has joined experts to call for guidelines to be introduced for packed lunches to cut down on the amount of crisps, chocolate biscuits, sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods being brought into schools.

She said: “Despite positive moves with regards to the food provided as part of a school meal, food brought in by children in their packed lunches is lagging behind.

"I hope that the Government takes notice of this research, especially having recently released their childhood obesity strategy which doesn’t seem to address this issue in our schools.

"We will continue to call for more action to be taken."

The study found that between 52% and 60% of packed lunches contained too many sweet and savoury snacks, while 46% included sugary drinks.

Only one in five contained any vegetables or salad, and less than 20% met the standards for energy, vitamin A, or zinc, with only 26%having met the standard for iron.

Mrs Hodgson added: "The research highlights the need for more action to be taken on food put in children’s packed lunches, something which the School Food All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has recently called for."

The MP wants to put lunchboxes at the heart of the Government’s agenda to combat childhood obesity.

In June, the APPG published a report which said: “It’s not about developing a punitive policy or making head teachers and dining room supervisors or the catering sector the ‘food police’.

"Instead it’s about supporting public health policy that is fair, practical, accessible and affordable for everyone."

Jo Nicholas, head of research at the Children’s Food Trust, said packed lunches were contributing to the country’s child obesity problem and the Trust was “disappointed” not to see packed lunch policies in the Government’s childhood obesity strategy.