New Zealand/April 11, 2022/By: Rachel Thomas and Lee Kenny/Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/
Primary schools will have to ban fizzy and sugary drinks if a new government health proposal is adopted.
Pupils will only be allowed to drink water, milk and non-dairy milk substitutes under the plan announced on Thursday.
Sugar-sweetened drinks account for more than a quarter of children’s sugar intake in New Zealand and the proposal has been welcomed by principal and health experts.
“If kids eat and drink well, there are a myriad of benefits and good outcomes for learning,” Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said.
The proposal will now go out to public consultation.
“While some schools have already seen these results and chosen to put their own healthy drinks policies in place, we want to hear what people think about whether we can replicate those benefits across all primary schools and for all young people, parents and teachers,” Hipkins said.
“Research shows that dental decay is now the most common disease reported among children in New Zealand, and rates of obesity among children increased significantly between September 2020 and August 2021.
“The Government wants to ask what people think about all primary schools offering only healthy drinks, these being water, milk and non-dairy milk alternatives, to their students.”
The consultation is an opportunity for schools, kura, whānau and health professionals, to have their say on the proposed approach, he said.
Other options being considered include promoting healthy food and nutrition.
The consultation is being run by the Ministry of Education and closes on June 2.
The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) wanted the move to go even further and secondary schools.
“The NZDA position on this is clear, we would like to see the most impactful change,” NZDA sugary drinks spokesperson Dr Rob Beaglehole said.
“If we’re looking at primary schools only, many have already made the change to become ‘water only’ schools.
“There is a need to include all schools in this change, that includes secondary schools,” Beaglehole said.
“From the dental perspective, the evidence is clear that unhealthy beverages are having an impact on the dental decay rates of New Zealand children.
Sandy Hastings, president of Canterbury Primary Principals’ Association, welcomed the news but said many schools in the region are already “water-only schools”.
“We are always about promoting drinking water,” she said.
“I would say that would be pretty consistent across most primary schools.”
She was “a wee bit surprised at the announcement”, but could “see the point in making sure everybody is on the same page”.
“We didn’t think that our kids needed that extra sugar at break times,” she said.
“We don’t sell any drinks. We have the ability to order lunches, through two or three different providers, but we’ve gone through the menus and removed any drink items from those.”
At Burnside Primary School, Millie Hooker, year 3 and 4 teacher and junior sports coordinator, said the benefits of not permitting fizzy or sugary drinks included children feeling calmer and able to better concentrate.
“I really agree with the proposal. At this school we don’t promote fizzy drinks or have them readily available,” she said.
A nationwide policy would give “all schools continuity”.
“If children move from school to school then they have got the same expectation and routine at all schools they go to, that fizzy drinks are not acceptable.”
Banks Avenue School board chair Kirk McKay said the current policy of educating children about adopting a healthy diet was sufficient without needing to legislate.
“Train the kids and they will help train the parents, it’s the way we have got te reo (Māori) into homes,” he said.
McKay, who has two children at the primary school, said teachers already have the role of “food police” and a government policy would be “overreach”.