Our thoughts on fast food outlets near schools

Do you remember the excitement of going to ‘big’ school and being allowed to venture out to the shops at lunchtime?

The freedom to venture outside the school gates is a big bonus for older children.  However, with more fast food outlets situated near schools and marketing foods high in fat, salt and sugar, is this new right to choice sacrificing the health of our young adults?

What’s the problem with food outside the school?

School is a crucial environment for children to learn, not just how to read and write, but lifelong lessons, like the importance of a balanced diet and how we can achieve it.  Scotland has made great improvements to the diet of young children with the introduction of school nutrition regulations, and the launch of free schools meals for Primary 1 – 3.  However, as the uptake of school lunches at Primary increases, secondary school pupils are shunning the school canteen and hitting the streets.

This trend for older children to buy their lunch and snacks outside of school wouldn’t be a problem if food outlets offered healthier choices on the menu.  This is best highlighted in a study by Glasgow Centre for Population Health in 2012 which found that the most popular purchases contained:

  • Chips often with bread rolls, curry sauce, gravy, cheese and fish
  • Sausage rolls, pizza, pot noodles, beef burger/cheese burger, rolls and sausage and donner kebabs
  • With sugary drinks, chocolate, crisps, and sweets

The study’s findings confirmed that many pupils who eat outside of school at lunch-time buy unhealthy, convenience food of poor nutritional value.

A National crisis which needs to be tackled

In 2014, the Scottish Government released a publication called “Beyond the School Gate- Improving Food Choices in the Community”. The document set out a comprehensive list of opportunities for action, and a series of case studies on successful approaches to keep kids eating healthy lunches and snacks whilst at school.

Innovative approaches to keeping kids on site

Reinvent the school canteen to be more like the high street brands

The alternative school food outlets

Develop your own dedicated school food van which serves tasty and healthy food on-the-go

Wait a minute, what about supporting small businesses?

As a small business, we fully appreciate the fact that food outlets have evolved to satisfy a customer demand.  We understand that there is no one simple solution to this problem, particularly with the news highlighting that the ban on street food vans within a certain radius have affected people’s livelihood.

Schools and food outlets working together

Studies by Young Scot have shown that children will buy healthier options, like water, sandwiches and fruit if they are available and affordable.  Fast food outlets offering meal deals could consider adding healthier alternatives.  The Healthy Living Award helps food outlets prepare and promote the sale of healthier food options and rewards caterers who reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar in food they provide and make healthy options more easily available.

In conclusion

We believe that food outlets and schools can work together to promote healthy eating at an affordable price to children.  At Eat Balanced we always try to find a WIN-WIN solution.  Have you come across any innovative solutions that make it easier for kids to eat a balanced diet?  We’d love to hear from you @eatbalanced