Schools are daily bombarded with news headlines asking them to tackle global concerns or worse accusing them of causing these global problems. This weekend, the Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges expressed concern about the growing number of schools not complying with nutrient standards in the provision of school lunches. Research shows that children who eat healthy school lunches consume less salt and fat and helps deal with the fight against childhood obesity.
Childhood Obesity is a growing problem which schools are trying to tackle. Latest figures show almost a third of 10- and 11-year-olds and over a fifth of four- to five-year-olds are either overweight or obese. Pupils today are saturated with images of food that are quick to consume, high in sugars and fats which provide an immediate boost to their energy levels and then quite soon a sugar low, leading them to consume more of the product. This fluctuation in their energy levels affects their moods, their concentration and their waistlines.
I am often surprised when I take girls on school trips in their reluctance to eat a proper breakfast, preferring sugary options later in the morning. Girls resort to skipping proper meals thinking they are saving on the calories, and then find, because they are growing that their body needs the food. To fill the gap they consume the sugary bar to restore their energy and soon find that they are on the path to poor eating habits and poorly regulated dietary system. This reluctance to eat breakfast, I am sure, stems from them being bombarded with images of how they should look, images of size zero models, flawless looking with tips on what they can do to get to this size.
As schools we are placed in contradictory positions, tackling obesity whilst looking after girls who seek to look like the perceived ideal of a size zero. We continue to try and educate the girls about the importance of a proper diet: eating three properly balanced meals and healthy snacks. It can be an uphill battle, but at Bedford Girls’ School we work with our catering provision The Green Kitchen to entice girls to try out new dishes, to vary their diet and enjoy freshly cooked, locally sourced food. Through our Science, PE, PSHE and Food Technology curriculum we provide them with effective tools to help maintain a healthy body size which can cope with the demands of modern society. I wish the messages to teenagers in magazines and newspapers were more honest, in the meantime we continue to do what we can to stem the rise in obesity whilst giving girls a positive view on their body image.