Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Editorial: Healthy choices up to parents

It would be easy to take aim at schools for stocking their canteens with junk food and dishing out unhealthy snacks with little nutritional value at lunch times.

Easy, because we know that one in five New Zealand children are now overweight and one in 12 are obese.

Obesity is a major problem. The number of clinically overweight children in the Western Bay has doubled over the past two years and more teenagers are presenting with Type 2 diabetes.

Yesterday, we reported the results of a survey of a number of schools to see what they were offering to children.

Fatty foods were well represented on the menu.

Otumoetai Intermediate deputy principal John Stanley was upfront about why his school sold junk food.

There was a demand for it, he said, and if the school did not provide it, students would buy it elsewhere and take profits away from the school.

All five schools surveyed sold sandwiches. Fizzy drinks were off the menu.

The schools encouraged children to make "informed decisions" about their food choices.

And this is all a school can do.

As this paper has noted before, it is not junk food per se that causes obesity. It is not eating these types of foods in moderation.

If a child chooses to eat a pie or a chicken nugget roll (as unappetising as that sounds) once in a while it is unlikely to to do them much harm.

However, if they are buying junk food every day instead of taking a packed lunch then it becomes a problem.

This is not an issue for the school, it is an issue for parents.

It's up to parents to ensure their children are eating a balanced diet, that they get enough exercise and know how to make healthy food choices.

Obesity - which costs the country between $722 million and $849 million a year in healthcare costs and lost productivity - is a societal problem but there is no collective solution.

Individuals have to take responsibility for their eating and exercise habits.

Schools should be able to provide a choice of food - and it's ultimately a parent's responsibility to encourage their children to live healthy, active lives.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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