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Jonathan Sheppard: Get your tanks out of our kids lunchboxes

Jonathan Sheppard is Editor of ToryRadio.

Now I don't have children so perhaps this is really none of my business, however I have to say that I was somewhat alarmed when I heard that the Government intended providing parents with advice as to what makes up a healthy packed lunch.

In itself there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving advice as to what makes a healthy packed lunch. The problem is when it is taken too literally. Already there are reports that children are developing bone problems because their parents have been led to believe that full fat milk is wrong. Suddenly parents don't give their children milk, yet fail to provide them a regular source of calcium which growing bodies need.

Already the news has reported stories of kids having their jaffa cakes (can you tell I'm partial to one or perhaps three) because they are seen as a "bad food". If I had children and I learnt that anyone in authority at school had confiscated food intended for my child I am sure you would have to scrape me off the ceiling. I would be that angry.

What right does a school have to say what children, who opt out of school meals, should eat? If they are going down that route I would suggest that perhaps an audit should be done on whether any teachers smoke – as it isn't healthy you know. Ah – but adults can make choices for themselves. Well parents can make choices for their children, too.

We also need to get away from the concept of bad and good food. Chocolate is not a bad food. In fact it can be quite healthy. What isn't healthy is eating too much of it, just as eating too much cheese, or too many crisps is bad. We should not suggest crisps are bad.

Of greater importance is the issue of exercise. My father was (and still is) a teacher, although not in this country now, and in fact he was a PE teacher at my own school. I would suggest the Government may care to look at the lack of competitive sport in schools before they blame everything on food. How many schools no longer have playing fields? How many of those that do no longer offer competitive sports either because teachers have no time, don't want to be involved, or it is felt that the possibility of litigation from any accident really doesn't make it worthwhile? There are numerous statistics which suggest that whilst calorific intake has risen slightly, the amount of calories burned during exercise had plummeted. That's the problem that needs to be addressed.

If and when I have any children I hope I won't be the sort of parent who allows them to have a TV in the bedroom. I want to sit down and eat as a family and I would love them to be involved in competitive sport if it’s something they would like to try. And if they want a packet of crisps every now and then, or maybe even a chocolate biscuit, I don't think that's a bad thing either!


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