How long does it take a Ministry to make a healthy school lunch??

Health experts are perplexed by the Government’s announcement in the Ministry of Education Schools Bulletin yesterday of no immediate changes on food and drinks provided by schools, after an eight-week consultation in April this year showed strong support for healthy changes.

Hāpai te Hauora CEO Selah Hart said “Hāpai and other community organisations chose to strongly engage with this consultation together through Health Coalition Aotearoa, because having only healthy kai and wai supplied or sold by all schools is a no-brainer for the health of tamariki and rangatahi. That’s it, that’s the feedback – let’s just do this for our kids.”

“While I’m heartened the Ministry of Education says they will introduce healthy drinks regulations for primary and secondary schools and kura down the track, it makes no sense to wait. Why do they need to further ‘explore barriers’ to implement one of their own consultation options? Isn’t that what the consultation was all about? It’s not good for communities to add barriers to public health action with endless Ministerial reporting rounds.”

“Community providers are already out here getting on with what families have they’ve told us they need for hauora. We had hoped the Government would respond to strong feedback as decisively as community organisations, and just announce a healthy food and drinks duty for schools now.”

HCA member Open Forum For Health Information ran a petition asking for regulations for healthy food and drink provision for all schools with over 1,300 signatures. Spokesperson Shona Jaunas was relieved the Ministry got the message submitters wanted healthy food environments for all kids.

“I am particularly pleased that the Ministry of Education will be working with the Ministry of Health on options for healthy school food as we have asked for. Food affects kids’ mood and learning – it’s so clearly a health issue, and the health system needs to be involved”, she said.

“However, there’s no need for the report on options to implement healthy kai provision to take over a year to be written, as the Government has suggested. Healthy school food and drinks is one of the easiest structural things any Government can do to improve young people’s health. We already have healthy food and drink guidance from the Ministry of Health and plenty of schools are healthy food zones through the Ka Ora Ka Ako programme.”

“Ultimately, the response points in the right direction, which is working across Ministries to implement policy which gives kids the best start in life and learning. There’s no reason to delay that until nearly 2024 – especially after nutrition health indicators show a shocking negative impact on kids health over the last two years. We’re more than happy to work with Government on practical steps to speed it up. Children’s’ growing bodies and brains can’t wait.”

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