When the School Food Trust was set up in 2005, part of its remit was guidance on healthy packed lunches. Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports on the numbers of children’s packed lunches still based on crisps, sweets, and sugary drinks saying only 1.1% meet the required nutritional standards and only 1 in 5 contain fresh fruit or veg. If a government strategy for addressing something as fundamental as the health of our children can fail then it doesn’t bode well for the Digital Britain Action Plan’s success in persuading non-computer users of the advantages of the Internet. Government strategies are doomed when they suggest changes in lifestyle; stop smoking, restrict alcohol, eat five portions of fruit and veg, walk 10000 steps, while all the time there is an easy cheap supply of cigarettes, alcohol and high sugar/salt/fat processed foods, mostly well within 10000 steps.
January is the time of broken new year resolutions; the majority of which involve giving something up. We pick the coldest, greyest and most miserable time of the year to promise ourselves we’ll be fitter and healthier in the months ahead. But it doesn’t happen; in the same way that sales of cigarettes and alcohol won’t go down so long as they provide the government with a healthy tax revenue and supermarkets continue to offer cut price deals. Habit is a powerful incentive. We choose behaviours that reward us in the short term so delayed gratification may not be the best way to sell an idea or a product, neither is depriving us of something we enjoy. A ‘healthy’ packed lunch is about more than food; it’s about the availability of cost and time, about education and understanding where processed food comes from and the number of additives and chemicals it contains. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients list then reconsider eating it.
Supersize Me and the Future of Food are free to watch on freedocumentaries.org. Fast Food Nation and Food.inc tell much the same story. But warning; ‘healthy’ eating may well start here….