This site is intended for health professionals only

Back to school with healthy food

As children are returning to schools this September, changes in what they can buy to eat and drink will be seen at breakfast clubs, break time, in tuck shops and in vending machines.

Since September 2007 all schools have had to comply with Nutritional Standards for school lunches, which were extended in April 2008 to cover all food and drink provided in schools.

Jennifer McBratney, Food in Schools Coordinator with the Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland (HPA), said: "With increasing levels of obesity in children and concerns about the impact this will have on the prevalence of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer in the future, improving nutrition and what children eat has never been more important.

"Pupils and parents will notice many changes, for example, fruit and vegetables will now be available throughout the school day, free fresh drinking water must be provided in all schools, and chips and high-fat foods such as sausages and burgers have been restricted. Also no sweets, chocolate, crisps or fizzy sugary drinks will be available. Snacks that are higher in fat and sugar are being replaced with healthier options such as fruit, bread based products, water and milk. Pupils will still have plenty of choice."

The Department of Education and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have supported and funded a range of initiatives to improve food in schools, highlighting that this issue is a key priority for both departments.

Health Promotion Agency