St Peter’s London Docks primary shows healthy eating is on East End school menu
- Credit: GLA
Kids in London’s deprived East End which once had Britain’s worst child obesity rates are now into healthy eating for school lunches with fresh fruit and vegetables which they help prepare themselves.
A three-year programme for healthier eating at lunchtime in schools has been laid on the table by the Mayor of London.
Schools in east London are already on the case, with four being awarded ‘bronze status’ for healthy environment.
Child obesity in Tower Hamlets was among the worst in Britain just five years ago, with an obesity clinic having to be set up at the Royal London Hospital specially for youngsters.
More than one-in-three children across London aged 11 are still overweight, with one-in-five obese, according to latest City Hall statistics.
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“Our schools are tackling obesity and getting youngsters more active,” Boris Johnson said.
“Children are happier when schools are healthy places to be—their attendance and behaviour improves and they achieve more.”
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He has launched a £600,000 programme for schools to aim for bronze, silver and gold status for a healthy environment.
Nutritionist Amanda Ursell told the launch: “Establishing healthy eating patterns when you’re young can influence food preferences and health throughout life, which will in turn go on to affect the health of our children’s children.”
A pilot scheme began in Tower Hamlets last month—the area where the battle again child obesity has been toughest.
Four primary schools received bronze status at City Hall last Thursday—St Peter’s London Docks in Wapping, Cyril Jackson in Limehouse, Ian Mikado in Bromley-by-Bow and Kobi Nazrul in Whitechapel.
St Peter’s, in one of London’s most deprived neighbourhoods with its high rates of poverty, was selected as a shining example. Its Head teacher Liz Dickson, who gave a presentation, was determined to improve the lunchtime experience for her 238 pupils.
Nearly half the children get free meals, 46 per cent compared to 16 per cent national average–but you would never know it looking her pupils enjoying lunchtime.
“We abolished queuing because it was noisy and time consuming,” Liz Dickson explained. “It was an awful system where they ate on trays–we got rid of the trays and put plates and bowls on the tables with tablecloths.”
The school has also done a deal with new caterers. Everything has to be cooked from scratch, the school insists, using only fresh vegetables, sometimes organic.
Children have a salad bowl and dish-of-the-day at each table, served by the pupils who take turns and also set up and clear the tables themselves, taking responsibility for their own mealtimes.
St Peter’s has its own vegetable garden. Waitrose, nearby in St Katharine’s Dock, gave the school seeds to plant and promised the children can sell their produce outside the store when they’re harvested.
This plants the seed in their mind to teach them about healthy eating.