In Northern Ireland over 127,000 children bring their own food to school so it is important to ensure that food is both appetising and is good for health. Recent surveys looking at children’s lunchboxes revealed that they are often too high in fat, salt and sugar, with just under half of the lunchboxes containing no fruit. ¹’²
To help parents and carers make lunchboxes healthier, the PHA has produced a leaflet, Are you packing a healthy lunch? in collaboration with safefood, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Education. It will be distributed to every child in primary school and contains practical tips for parents, carers and children on how to pack an appetising, healthy lunchbox.
Speaking during the launch of the publication at Lisnasharragh Primary School, Belfast, Dr Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “We know that the food our children eat can affect their health for many years to come — good eating habits will help to protect them against chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer later in life. It is really important to encourage children to develop good eating habits when they are young as they are more likely to eat healthily when they grow up.
“Children can spend up to a quarter of their waking lives in school so a packed lunch can make a valuable contribution to a child’s diet, but the key to a healthy lunchbox is variety as no single food can provide all the essential nutrients that our bodies need.”
In addition to the booklet, all schools will receive a Healthier lunch boxes booklet which provides a step by step guide to how schools can support healthier food choices by those children who chose to bring a packed lunch.
Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood, said: “We all lead busy lives so making time to eat healthily is a challenge, especially when it comes to children’s lunchboxes. This leaflet will help parents with introducing healthier choices which can become part of the daily routine while also teaching children about the importance of healthy eating and preparing food.”
School Principal Philip Monks added: "The staff and children at Lisnasharragh Primary School are delighted to be helping with the launch of this healthy lunch initiative. Schools are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of healthy break time snacks and lunches. Nutrition and a balanced diet are key to the children's good health and general wellbeing. Our aim is that in the future they will be able to apply what they have learned about different kinds of food to make healthy choices both in and out of school."
Notes to the editor
There will be a media facility at Lisnasharragh Primary School, Tudor Drive, Belfast, on Tuesday 14 September between 12.15 – 12.45pm.
A pdf of the lunchbox guide is attached for information.
¹ Department of Education. October 2008 school meal census. Unpublished.
²Safefood. An investigation into the nutritional balance of school children’s packed lunches: An all-Ireland study. Unpublished.
For further information
Contact PHA press office on 028 9031 1611.