31/03/2004

Healthier school meals on the menu

More than 100 schools are to serve up healthier school meals as part of a pilot scheme designed to examine methods of implementing new nutritional standards.

The scheme is part of the Department of Education’s contribution to Investing in Health. It aims to ensure that pupils have access to a nutritionally balanced meal each day, and follows the ‘Catering for Healthier Lifestyles’ consultation that first proposed compulsory nutritional standards for school meals.

Announcing the scheme, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education, Gerry McGinn said: “Encouraging healthy eating habits among children and young people contributes to healthy growth and development in the short term and is an investment in their health for the future.

“This pilot scheme does not ban any particular foods and recognises that there are no healthy or unhealthy foods, only unhealthy diets. I want to see children enjoy their lunches and to ensure that there are more healthy options available.”

The introduction of the standards will be tailored to each individual school’s needs. The pilot will be monitored to ensure that smooth progress is made, or to ensure that suitable action can be taken should this prove not to be the case.

The Department of Education, in conjunction with the Health Promotion Agency, will carry out an evaluation of the scheme at the end of the pilot. The evaluation will aim to determine the best way of rolling out the standards to all schools.

(MB)

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