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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 06 March 2006

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SCHOOLS Minister Jacqui Smith last week launched a consultation with key stakeholders on standards for food which can be sold in schools through vending machines, tuck shops and at break times, breakfast clubs and after school.  Headteacher and school workforce associations, dieticians, health charities, and food and drink organisations are invited to submit their views on draft standards proposed today by the independent School Food Trust for school food other than lunch.  The consultation will seek the views of key stakeholders on the standards proposed by the independent School Food Trust, especially on the following questions:-

* Do you agree that no confectionery should be sold in schools?

* Do you agree that no bagged savoury snacks other than nuts and seeds (without added salt or sugar) should be sold in schools?

* Do you agree that a variety of fruit and vegetables should be available in all school food outlets? This could include fresh, dried, frozen, canned and juiced varieties

* Do you agree that children and young people must have easy access at all times to free, fresh, preferably chilled, water in schools so that children do not have to depend on going to the lavatory to get water?

* Do you agree that the only other drinks available should be bottled water (still or sparkling), skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, pure fruit juices, yoghurt and milk drinks (with less than 5% added
sugar), drinks made from combinations of these e.g. smoothies, low calorie hot chocolate, tea and coffee?

* Do you agree that artificial sweeteners could be used in yoghurt and milk drinks only?

* Do you agree that every school should have a whole school food and nutrition policy, preferably reflected in its single School Plan?

* How effective do you think these recommendations would be in improving the eating habits of children and young people?

* How could schools best manage the practical implications of moving to these proposed standards?

* What additional guidance would schools need to implement these proposed standards?

Jacqui Smith said:- "The independent School Food Trust has proposed a robust set of standards for food which can be sold in schools through vending machines, in tuck shops and at break times. It is important that we now seek the views of a wide range of stakeholders on these to ensure that such standards are effective, practical, and in the best interests of children's health."

The Government has already consulted on new minimum standards for school lunches to be introduced in all schools by this September, and
already made the first payments from £220 million dedicated to helping schools deliver healthier meals.

Following the consultation, the Government will publish the final version of the non-lunch food standards alongside the agreed standards for school lunches in May.

Somerfield group announcement

SOMERFIELD announced last week that it will focus all future investment on the Somerfield brand to create the UK's leading convenience and local food retailer.  As part of this strategy 102 Kwik Save stores are to be converted to the Somerfield fascia, to create a retail group with over 1,000 stores across the UK. Somerfield also announces that it has sold the Kwik Save brand and 171 stores to a new company specifically formed to operate Kwik Save. The operation of Kwik Save along side the core business has been unsuccessful and Kwik Save has incurred substantial losses.  A further 77 Kwik Save stores have been sold to other retailers.

The stores flowing are among the 171 stores which will transfer to BTTF the new owners of the Kwik Save business. Wavertree, Overton Street, Liverpool; Great Homer Street, Liverpool; Old Swan, Liverpool; Smithdown Road, Liverpool Merseyside; Prescot, Liverpool; Huyton Page Moss, Liverpool & Stanley Road, Birkenhead; Heswall Telegraph Road, Wirral & Claughton Road, Birkenhead Wallasey Seacombe, Paulton Road, Wallasey, Belle Vale, Liverpool, Market Street, Hyde Cheshire, Academy Street, Warrington Cheshire Simms Cross, Widnes Road, Widnes Cheshire, Eddleston Road, Crewe Cheshire & Hazel Grove, Stockport Cheshire

Health mates to get kids fit

6TH FORMERS are to be paid to act as 'health mates' and mentor younger children in a bid to cut obesity in Liverpool.  More than 300 teenagers aged 16 to 18 will be recruited to provide advice and guidance to 11 year olds who are overweight. The aim is to get them interested in activities that burn calories such as cooking, dancing or exercise.

It is part of a massive drive to improve the health and well being of youngsters, proposed in the Children and Young People's plan. It aims to cut the number of overweight or obese kids by a half in the next 3 years, and get all youngsters taking part in 2 hours of exercise per week.

The scheme will also help prepare 6th formers for the world of work, as they will have to meet performance targets in order to receive payment in gift and travel vouchers.

Council leader Warren Bradley said:- "Today's kids are tomorrow's adults and we must do all we can to give them the best possible start in order to prevent them facing health problems in later life.  Overweight youngsters are more likely to be bullied and that can have a knock on effect on their confidence and potential to achieve at school.  It is vital we break the couch potato habit and tackle the growing problem of child obesity by finding innovative ways of getting them off out of the house and taking part in physical activity.  Our groundbreaking kids gyms and games consoles on fitness equipment are already enticing youngsters into our Lifestyles leisure centres, and we will build on our success in these areas.  Teaching youngsters the importance of eating healthily and getting fit will help them develop habits that last a lifetime."

Half of 11 year old boys and 40% of 11 year old girls in Liverpool are overweight. 1 in 20 is clinically obese and 1 in 3 do not do enough exercise.

Free access to swimming and gym facilities at the city's Lifestyles fitness centres is also planned, and the city is pledging to create 50 new activity play areas in school, deliver healthier meals and work with food stores to help parents ensure their children eat healthily.

4 key priorities have been identified as part of the Children and Young People's Plan. They are:

* Reducing childhood obesity and promoting a culture of physical activity

* Reducing the risk of abuse, bullying and anti social behaviour

* Improving the achievements of children in care, from ethnic minorities and young carers

* Improving early diagnosis and family support for disabled and special needs children

Councillor Paul Clein, executive member for children's services, said:- "The opinions of young people have formed the basis for this plan. They spoke and we listened.  It is a fact that youngsters are far more easily influenced by their peers than by adults. We can use the admiration that they have for older teenagers and influence them in a positive way.  We are committed to working with partners in health, the police and the voluntary sector to improve life for young people, and the plan sets some challenging targets which we have to meet."

As part of the plan to reduce obesity, all 5 to16 year olds will get access to free swimming pools after school at weekends, while over 13s will be able to use Lifestyles gyms.

The city council also wants to reduce youth nuisance by 30% through supporting the development of after school activity and providing diversionary activity at libraries and leisure centres. Improved family support and assessment procedures will bring the number of youngsters on the Child Protection Register down by 20%.

It is also proposed that the number of 11 to 15 year olds who are bullied is halved over the next 3 years through the training of anti bullying mentors in schools, extra training for children's services staff and maintaining the Bully Busters helpline.

Extra support will be provided to help improve the achievements of children in care, ethnic minorities and young carers. The aim is to get 25% more vulnerable young people into education, training or employment after the age of 16.

More help and assistance will also be provided to disabled children and those with special educational needs. This will include developing links with ante/post natal services to identify youngsters at an early stage, improving social worker support through strong links with schools and children's centres and providing additional transport for disabled young people to attend after school activities. More than £3 million has been set aside in the coming year for schools to help achieve this.

The report will be considered by the Executive Board on Friday 3 March and implemented from April providing it is signed up to by the city council and partners from the NHS and education.
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