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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 September, 2004, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Health check for school lunches
Burgers and chips
Reducing the number of chips consumed would help
School meals are to undergo a major government review in an attempt to tackle obesity in children.

Education secretary Charles Clarke is expected to announce the review on Monday.

Schools will also be encouraged to help pupils get more exercise at school and to learn how to eat a balanced diet.

Ministers will look again at the nutritional standards for school meals they introduced in 2001 to cut levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.

Good health and effective learning go hand in hand
Charles Clarke

A Department for Education and Skills (DfES) spokesman told the Independent on Sunday those guidelines had encouraged schools to offer a healthy option, but suggested they might not have gone far enough.

"What they have proved is that you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink," he told the newspaper.

Mr Clarke said the partnership of parents and school was "critical" in encouraging good health in children, with schools well placed to lead by example.

"Good health and effective learning go hand in hand. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind," he said.

The government has already launched a 77m programme under which two million pupils are given a free piece of fruit or vegetable every day.

Allotments

It is also piloting schemes such as breakfast clubs, tuck shops and vending machines with healthy food and bottled water rather than chocolate and crisps, and helping parents to prepare healthy lunch boxes.

Sally Child, a nutritional therapist specialising in work with children, supported the idea of reducing choice in school dinners, to steer youngsters "in the right direction".

She wanted to see a return to "good old British cooking that children can recognise and trust" and a move away from "continental varieties".

Children will eat pizza and chips if they're on offer because they're the easy option and they're what they're familiar with
Nutritional therapist Sally Child

Children were "a lot more aware about healthy eating than we give them credit for", she told BBC News.

"Children will eat pizza and chips if they're on offer because they're the easy option and they're what they're familiar with, and they like to have food they can trust.

"But I'm not convinced from my research with children that it's necessarily what they always want."

The latest moves are part of a 5.7m Healthy Living Blueprint drawn up by the DfES and the Department of Health.

Schools will also be encouraged to teach pupils more about nutrition in science lessons.

And they will be urged to use extra-curricular activities to foster an interest in healthy food, such as school gardening clubs or visits to local allotments.

Primary schools could also be encouraged to stay open for longer to help working parents by providing their children with exercise and healthy food.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Sophie Hutchinson
"It could mean that all the food has to be healthy"




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