Yongsters tuck in to healthy eating

AN IPSWICH school is set to lead the way in healthy eating after adopting an initiative to prevent obesity and teach valuable life lessons.

STAFF from an Ipswich nursing home will be helping pupils adopt a healthy lifestyle by introducing different ways to eat fruit and vegetables.

Handford Hall Primary School in Gatacre Road is so far the only school in the town to sign up to a new initiative, which aims to encourage children to eat well, prevent obesity and teach valuable life lessons.

Two specially trained volunteers from Anglesea Heights Nursing Home in Ivry Street will be going into the school from next month with exotic fruits and juicers as part of the initiative, Activ-eat, which has been developed for schools by health and care company Bupa.

The pupils, aged between six and nine, will have the chance to make healthy smoothie drinks, taste fruits from around the world and play games which highlight the importance of eating fruit and vegetables.

Children will also be given a pedometer at the end of each session to encourage them to do more physical activity and will be left with a three-week challenge to eat five items of fruit and vegetables a day.

It is expected more than 3,000 children from 27 schools will join the initiative, which aims to combat obesity, by the end of 2009.

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It comes amid growing concerns of childhood obesity in the UK, with one in four children starting school overweight or obese.

Jane Rogers, healthy schools co-ordinator, at Handford Hall School, said: “It's vital that children learn the importance of healthy eating as early as possible. Because they often learn best when they are relaxed and having fun, Activ-eat has the potential to make a real difference to how children view fruit and vegetables. Hopefully, it will make some get a taste for healthy foods they might not otherwise have tried.

“We are working towards getting our Healthy Schools status. It is about giving them the knowledge and skills to make their own choices.

“The children really enjoy eating healthily. What we are hoping is that they carry on that when they grow up.”

Nicole Humphreys, community relations manager at Bupa, said: “Research clearly shows that childhood obesity is on the increase across the UK and we want to make sure we are playing a part in combating this problem. We've had great feedback from both teachers and parents who took part in the initial pilot of Activ-eat and we now plan to reach well over 3,000 children through the UK-wide launch of the initiative.

“We are also pleased to be supporting the National Healthy Schools programme and to be providing primary schools with ongoing support through a series of information booklets throughout the year, offering parents dietary advice for their children.”

What more do you think can be done to get children into eating healthily? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The government has set a target that all schools will be participating in the National Healthy Schools Programme by 2009 and that 75 percent of schools will have achieved National Healthy School Status.

The idea of the programme is to encourage children and young people to be healthy, which enhances both their emotional and physical health. It also seeks to improve long term health, reduce health inequalities, increase social inclusion, raise achievement for all and develop healthy behaviours.

For more information visit www.healthyschools.gov.uk