SCHOOLS across Sunderland and Durham are being given new powers to tackle takeaways in the war on obesity.
To help boost the uptake of school dinners and tackle rising childhood obesity, schools will be able to rival the lunchtime special meal deals at fast-food outlets.
Under new powers, schools will be able to offer price promotions on meals to particular pupils, encouraging more children to try a healthy school lunch, providing competition for takeaways which frequently target school pupils by tempting them with cheap offers.
Schools will be able to target pupils not eating school lunches or where uptake traditionally drops off, such as at the start of secondary school.
Examples could include £1 meal deals for new starters, special prices for siblings regularly eating school lunches and cut-price meals for a different year group each day.
Sunderland’s take-up of school meals is already higher than the national average, and a number of secondary schools now keep students on the premises over the lunchtime period.
Meg Boustead, head of safeguarding for Sunderland City Council’s Children’s Services, said: “We actively support all the city’s schools to encourage more pupils to take advantage of the variety of school meals on offer, as they provide a healthy and balanced menu.
“Sunderland City Council already has a strategy in place to help address the national issue of obesity on a local level.”
Wendy George runs a number of Slimming World classes in Sunderland, which regularly have child members.
She said: “Teaching youngsters about eating the healthy option is the way forward. But I see such a lot of people in the community who financially are very strapped, so it is understandable they will try to save money on school lunches.
“Schools need to be able to offer the same sort of deals, but with healthier options, at the same prices as takeaways. To do this the Government needs to give them more funding.”
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: “School meals beat takeaways hands down on the quality of food they serve, but up until now they have struggled to compete on price.
“Getting children into the school canteen is vital – the benefits of healthy school meals are clear. These new powers are an important step in tackling childhood obesity, and will mean schools can help hard-pressed families.”