Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Friday, 20 May 2005 19:33 UK

Should healthy eating be rewarded?

Secondary school pupils in Glasgow are being offered the chance to win iPods, Xbox consoles and theatre tickets with a new healthy eating swipecard system.

The city council is encouraging pupils at the city's 29 secondary schools to ditch junk food in favour of a healthier diet.

Pupils gain points by eating healthy foods and the more they earn, the greater the prize.

About 30,000 youngsters can use the swipecard and the council says it is confident they will not turn their noses up at salad if it means winning an iPod.

We asked if you thought Glasgow City Council's plans to hand out iPods and Xboxes to pupils as an incentive for them to eat healthier foods was a good idea. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

Spending funds on iPods and Xboxes as incentives is cheaper and easier for the government than having to fund treatment of the many, many complications of a junk food diet, heart disease and diabetes being the major ones. The 180 for an iPod is much preferable to the thousand on drugs and operations.
Anon, Glasgow

I left one of these secondary schools a good few years ago when they had introduced the swipe card system and I didn't think they were up to much. The food on offer wasn't particularly healthy, or even tasty. Fruit and vegetables were often at the very first stage of rotting after having over-ripened. As for the machines themselves, they didn't take change, or give out change either, once you had put money in there, you didn't get it back except when you spent money on the food. Which meant that thousands of pupils leaving Glasgow secondary schools each year were left a couple of pounds out of pocket, giving these schools a hefty boost in income of a few thousand pounds. Personally I don't agree that children should be given these rewards but for all the money the schools are taking from the children, it's the only consolation they have - like paying to enter a prize draw.
Daisy C, Glasgow

Ridiculous. Schools should first remove all the junk food and drink from their menus. Remove the vending machines and educate the pupils about the serious health risks associated with high fat, sugar and excess salt content.
Stephen, Alexandria, Scotland

They actually get an iPod shuffle (69) not a 20Gb iPod as shown, so stop getting your knickers in a knot. It is a fantastic idea that introduces kids to a better diet. They are also taking their healthier ideas back home with them and spreading the gospel. The scheme works (chip consumption halved) and it is with GCC's budget. What is the problem? I wonder if some of the contributors were ever children themselves.
Roger, Dunblane, Scotland

Kids don't want to eat healthily. Don't waste taxpayers money to bribe people to eat. Why don't we offer free petrol to motorists instead to stick to the speed limit. Any more clever ideas?
Jilles Edema, Aberdeen

It's an utter disgrace to see the way that our country is targeting the eating habits of youngsters. Education, not bribery, is the way to go. Parents should be making their children eat the proper foods and limit their use of the TV, computers, game consoles etc. if they aren't eating enough good food or getting enough exercise; not giving out these gifts. Doesn't Glasgow City Council realise that it is a lifestyle of playing games and watching TV that is at the heart of the problem?
Lyndsey, Kilmarnock

Sickening. What's to stop these kids from buying their meals and throwing them away just to get an iPod or an Xbox. I have both, and I worked damn hard to get them - kids get things far too easy these days.
John Maclennan, Glasgow

No fair. I ate relatively healthily when I was at school (nine years ago) and I didn't get anything for it. We didn't have iPods or obesity then, can I have one as a back payment for a job well done?
Gogs, Aberdeen

Without the incentive and the healthy food only, the kids would just vote with their feet and get their junk from down the street. This way they are encouraged not only to eat healthily, but also gives them the added incentive to attend school in general. And not all kids come from backgrounds where they thought owning an iPod or Xbox would be possible. So it would be nice to know they are getting at least one healthy meal a day and the chance to get their hands on some of the kit that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Kevin, Glasgow

Children stick to what they know - it usually takes a big effort (or a bribe) to make them change their eating habits and discover how good they feel when they eat healthily. Something has to be done or we'll all be couch potatoes (probably chipped and fried).
Jennie, Inverness, Scotland

I think this is an appalling use of public funds. Why are we pandering to the needs of spoil school children? The money should be spent on providing free healthy school dinners and the kids told to like it or lump it, just as I was when I was at school. A bit of parental education wouldn't go amiss either.
Alison, Edinburgh

I think it's a good idea to kick-start a healthy eating habit, but the money would be better spent providing free schools meals to all. But why are schools serving unhealthy options anyway?
Sharon, Dalkeith, Scotland

As a nutritionist working in schools, I know how hard it is to promote healthy eating to children, especially teenagers. But I don't think that providing big expensive incentives are a sustainable way to promote healthy eating. You will never be able to control what they eat outside school. Would the money not be better suited spent on bringing back cooking skills to classrooms? What will happen after the year project?
Claire , Cumnock, Ayrshire

I think this gives a confusing message to kids. Rewarding healthy eating is a good idea and also will help them sort out what is/is not healthy, but with prizes that are one of the contributing factors to obesity? Sitting in front of a screen playing video games/watching a film or listening to music is hardly exercise, which is what is needed along with healthy eating to combat obesity.
Izzy, Cupar, Fife

A great idea. Get children in to the habit of eating well and studies show that they will continue to eat well. Scotland and the UK as a whole need to take bold steps like this to protect the heath and long term wellbeing of our young people. The cost of a few iPods will be far outweighed by the health benefits if this scheme works.
Steven Jack, Glasgow

It's the responsibility of the parents and the kids themselves to eat healthily, not the responsibility of the taxpayer to buy iPods for kids who forgo chips once in a while. Once again, responsible parents and children or schools with already sensible policies will be passed over for not having been bad enough to start with.
Evan, Edinburgh

I think this is a great idea - many of these young children will have no other ready access to healthy eating. It is all very well saying that pupils should be educated on how to eat healthily, but they do need an incentive to eat in the school in order to attempt to compete with McDonalds, Greggs and the local chip shop. Anything which encourages them to eat healthily is a good idea in my book.
Karen, Glasgow

There is no way that public money should be used to bribe kids to eat properly. This is an irresponsible waste and does not solve the problems of obesity and other eating disorders. Put the money to an educational use where the benefits of healthy eating are promoted and the dangers of non healthy eating shamed for what they are.
John Murphy, Glasgow

Definitely not. They should be educated about the dangers of unhealthy eating. If they don't want the kids to eat unhealthily then they shouldn't serve unhealthy food. The reward from healthy eating should be good quality of life not an iPod.
Philip, Aberdeen

This is hardly a long-term solution. Good diet needs to become a way of life - not something you do for the duration of a competition. How will this be followed up? Free, healthy school dinners would be far better, and more likely to bring around the required lifestyle change.
Cathy, Ayrshire

Children still die every single day because they have nothing to eat. It is a sobering thought that millions of children would be happier to see a bag of rice than an ipod. Is this really what the discrepancy between the world's rich and poor has come to? I believe passionately in healthy eating, especially for children, but this gross waste of money simply cannot be justified in a world where children die of starvation every day.
Claire, Helensburgh, Scotland

What a load of nonsense. I ate healthy food when I was a child because a) that was all that was on offer in our school canteen and b) my parents told me to and I respected them so I did. My kids eat healthily because I am a good parent not because they are bribed with computer games.
Neil, Glasgow

Several people have asked who will pay for this. Well, since it's a Glasgow City Council scheme, Glasgow council tax payers will pay. And most of the comments from people actually in Glasgow seem to be favourable - isn't this the way local democracy is supposed to work?
Jon Raikes, Glasgow

This is an excellent idea to encourage children to eat well. Food manufacturers such as McDonalds (and many others) have been using this method to get children to buy things like happy meals as there is a toy that comes with the meal. They have shown that it definitely works. It is fantastic that schools have the opportunity to use this powerful method of persuasion to get kids to eat more healthily.
Julia Cumming, Aberdeen

I used to run a Boys Brigade football team in the east end of Glasgow. Our BB Company also had a let for a school for games/sports. Glasgow City Council cancelled our lets to save money. Would it not be better to spend the cash on improving access for young people and their groups/clubs to sports facilities. A child with an Xbox will just sit indoors and get no exercise.
James Sheppard, Glasgow

Take the Xbox off the menu (and anything else that involves sitting on the sofa and watching the TV) and you have a good scheme. However, how long will it be until healthy eating kids are selling their spare iPods at the Barras?
Robert Hurt, Glasgow

You people in the first world have too much money to waste, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
Tom Shipton, South Africa

Horrendous idea. Kids should not be rewarded for eating healthy as they should want to be healthy for themselves. Fast food outlets etc. should be banned from advertising near schools.
Chris, Perthshire

I think that this is a sad indictment of the way our country is going. When I was a young man growing up during the war, we didn't need prizes to try and eat healthily. We just did it. I don't know what an iPod is (is it something to do with the internet?) but it looks expensive. This is a waste of money.
Bill Stitt, Edinburgh, Scotland

A good idea I think. Although I wonder how long before we see the first lunch swipe-card appear on ebay.
Richard Paterson, Surrey (ex Glasgow)

I think it's quite a good idea, but I also think that perhaps people would eat more healthy food if it was cooked properly? At my school the only way they know how to cook vegetables is to boil them until they ooze water. I like the healthy food I eat at home, but the school food is disgusting.
Owen, Hildenborough

Who is paying for the rewards? The income generated from these healthy meals obviously will not cover it, so this means more tax payers money is being spent on rewards for an attitude that should be learnt at home. It's a ridiculous idea.
Dan, Glasgow

Surely a much better approach would be to offer free healthy school dinners across the board. It would remove the free school dinners stigma and parents could simply not give out dinner money to be spent at McDonalds.
Ally, Fife, Scotland

I understand the need to encourage pupils to eat a more health diet, but why offer them electronic games which will no doubt end up with them sitting in a bedroom when they should be following a more active lifestyle to back up the benefits of the new diet.
George Dobie, Livingston, West Lothian

I for one think that it is a brilliant idea. Children should learn from and early age that good behaviour and good habits bring rewards. Whether those rewards are good health or material possessions are unimportant. They, as I did, will learn in time that eating healthily has its own rewards.
Robert Schmitt, Edinburgh

Excerpt from one of today's other stories: "And Dr Ian Campbell, president of the National Obesity Forum, added: "What we have got to convince parents is that environmental factors are important to make sure their children do not become obese. They must stop them watching TV and playing computer games all the time - these lifestyle factors are key." Sorry, your question was what do we think of schools giving away Xboxes to promote healthy lifestyles?
Nick, Livingston

Good idea.
Michelle, Ardrossan, Ayrshire

I think the roots of the problem are far deeper. The UK in general has never had much of a food culture. I was laughed at in school for bringing posh food (pasta salads, etc.) for lunch, and even today, I know a lot of adults who think going out to a nice restaurant and sampling herbs and more exotic vegetables is something reserved for snobs. Teaching children to enjoy varied food at a young age means that they are unlikely to develop tastes that are restricted to chips, burgers and chip-shop pizza.
Angela, Singapore (ex-Glasgow)

I certainly don't agree with offering school kids incentives to eat healthy as they should want to do it for their own good. But saying that, if you want youngsters to become healthier, is it really a good idea to offer an Xbox as an incentive - thus turning more kids into couch potatoes?
Sunil, Beds, UK

The question is not really should we reward them for eating healthily. It is how have we come to the point where we need to reward them for eating healthily?
Martin, Sweden

I think it's sad that children have to be bribed to eat properly, but if it does the job and kids get a balance diet and education on healthy life style, go for it.
Jill Fraser, Gravesend, Kent, England

It just gets worse and worse. First kids are bribed to stay on in post-compulsory education and now they're being given electronic goods for not eating chips. If you want to cut down on childhood consumption of pies, don't sell pies. Don't give kids the option of eating pies.
Joe, Bournemouth

What a great idea. How about in phase two they open the schools to the public for lunch. Of course I say this because it would generate revenue for the school. And of course I'm sure I could sit through a few of Jamie's School Dinners for a free iPod.
Greg, Glasgow

This is ridiculous. Just feed the kids healthier food at their cafeterias and don't let them off-site during lunch. They'll learn to like what they're fed if you stop giving them choices. In my day you were suspended if you left school property. Stop mollycoddling kids or we'll end up with a generation of whiners who won't do anything without the promise of a prize.
Samantha Cardimon, Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA

I think this is an excellent idea and I am glad that at least one council are doing something to improve our children's eating habits. It would be interesting to see if the children's grades and behaviour improve.
Lynn Craig, Glasgow

I think this is an excellent idea, although possibly in need of refinement. The story states that 100 of the top-scoring meals would be rewarded with an iPod, but is there anyway to check that these 100 meals are spread over a reasonable period? This would stop pupils saving up and getting a 115 iPod over the course of a month. I also think that it would be beneficial to penalise unhealthy foods too, otherwise healthy meals will be bought to gain points, then junk food bought to actually be eaten. All points that can be cleared up with common sense supervision of a brilliant idea. Credit to Glasgow City Council for an inventive pro-active scheme.
Alisdair McDonald, Edinburgh

If it works don't knock it. Better to get young people into a healthy eating regime and prevent both future ill health for these youngsters and their offspring. Longer term, perhaps the Scottish education system should be changed so that pupils cannot leave school at lunchtime to buy junk food at the local shops and mobile caterers, with healthy food being offered at school as it is in England.
E-C, Midlothian

Absolutely stupid. The schools should only offer decent food in the first place and then it's down to the parents to train them at home with healthy food. I thought tax rises were supposed to improve education not be squandered on this sort of thing. Can I have a tax rebate please.
Bill, Great Dunmow

Why are the pupils being allowed out at break-time and lunchtime? Who is paying for this? Why not ensure that all the school meals are of excellent nutritional value, then pupils will benefit from whatever they choose?
Anon, Manchester

This is a sad reflection on our society, surely the answer is to take out the unhealthy option altogether. Maybe they should be putting the money they are prepared to spend on bribes into a healthy food option in the first place.
Dave B, Hants

It's a nice idea, but the cynic still has some questions. What's to say that the healthy food won't just be bought to earn points and not get eaten? Hopefully the schools are taking unhealthy food off the menu. Also, how does this work for kids that are entitled to free school meals? Are they also entitled to free iPods?
Andrew Bonavia, Brighton

A nice idea, but having used incentive schemes like this before I expect that actually getting the iPod is most probably a lot harder than it sounds. The Connexions Card scheme was supposed to reward Sixth Formers for attendance but instead they ended up just giving points out at seemingly random times, regardless of whether or not you turned up. The promise of great things, like Amazon vouchers and driving lessons soon turned out to be not as readily available as we were lead to believe.
Ian Bush, London

I think this is a good idea because it rewards children if they eat healthily. A very good way to encourage healthy eating in my opinion.
Karen Whitton, Forfar, Scotland

Brilliant idea. Should be extended to doing good and acts of kindness in the community as well nationwide.
Ade, Derby

Do you have to be a pupil of the school to take advantage of this scheme? 100 Vital Mixes at 1.15 = 115. Last time I checked an iPod cost far more than this. Can I buy all 100 on the same day?
Thomas, Cheshire

How is this being funded? I thought funding for schools was at a bare minimum. But with this scheme 75 dinners costing just 86.25 will get you an Xbox? Which, by the way, is only going to encourage kids to spend less time playing outdoors so getting less exercise. Expensive own goal.
Andy M, Oxford

I think this is a great idea but as well as schools offering these incentives to kids they need to clamp down on bullying too - otherwise some kids won't have their iPod for very long.
David, Edinburgh

Absolutely outrageous. What a waste of funds and no guarantee that the kids will stick to it after they've got the item they want. The problem lies with the parents - they are the ones who allow the kids to get into bad eating habits in the first place. Perhaps the money would be better spent teaching parents some basic cooking and nutritional skills.
Anne, Essex

I think it's a good idea to encourage children to eat more healthily but competition might not be the best way to do it. Treats such as crisps can be a useful way of rewarding children for other behaviour and a balanced diet will include certain fatty foods such as pies. We should be rewarding balance rather then just salads.
Emma, Cambridge

This is a very impressive and innovative step forward in helping children eat healthier.
Andy Gardner, Glasgow

I find the linking of food and material rewards worrying. Encouraging good eating habits is excellent, but linking it with material rewards that cannot be replicated at home, or in adult life, could lead to problems. Better remove the junk and make the whole school meal healthier.
Danielle Deudney, London

Wow - what a fantastic offer! Almost makes me wish I could go back to school. But more seriously, it's sad that we have to bribe our children to eat sensibly rather than pointing out the damage unhealthy eating in childhood can cause. Also, the iPod is a wonderful incentive, but the value of one healthy meal a day at school can be easily outweighed by a home lifestyle which doesn't offer such healthy options, so perhaps parents should also be given an iPod incentive to continue the school's good example at home?
Emma H, Oxford

So a pupil can get 100 health meals for 115 and throw them away, then go to McD's each day and have the lunch they would always have, then end up with a cheap iPod. Genius!
Keith L, Chelmsford

It's all very well incentivising kids to eat more healthily, but should it be by offering prizes that encourage them to sit inside all day with the curtains closed?
Duncan Ashenhurst, Birmingham

How can this scheme be cost-effective? A 10 Amazon voucher is worth 1500 points, i.e. roughly 150 points are needed for a 1 prize. Yet an Xbox, which currently retails for around 100 is worth 3000 points, or two 10 Amazon vouchers. Who is going to pay for this scheme?
Jonathan Powell, Durham

What a wonderful idea. Then perhaps we could bribe terrorist into not committing crimes by giving in to their demands immediately. The only way to ensure that children eat healthily is not to offer a junk food alternative, but the notion of bribing them into doing the right thing completely misses the point of why they should eat healthily.
Dave Cochrane, Portishead, England

No wonder younger generations nowadays expect something for nothing all the time. Thinking they are the victim etc, when they are brought up being offered items most other hard-working people have to work and save up for, just for saying no to chips. This is liberal thinking gone mad. The reward for eating healthily is to have a healthy body - end result.
Nathan Cooling, London

It's absolutely obscene to give away expensive gadgets. Isn't the prospect of a long and healthy life incentive enough for pupils to eat more sensibly?
Gareth Peate, Oswestry

Surely being fit and healthy should be incentive enough.
James Stevens, Llandudno, Wales

An absolute disgrace and a waste of my council tax money. I live in Glasgow and I don't see why I should fund incentives like this. Do they really think kids are going to make life choices out of this, or will it become an easy way of getting a free iPod while visiting the chip shop on the way home from school.
Allan, Glasgow

Can I Join?
K, Coventry, West Midlands

Don't think it's a good idea. How does making them eat healthily, then giving them a computer console, so they can sit inside staring at the TV all day, actually improve the health situation?

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