Tuck­ing in at some shops un­healthy for your child

Only chil­dren at af­flu­ent schools can af­ford a bet­ter daily choice than chips and sweets, writes PAIGE SUTHER­LAND

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

IT’S junk food the kids crave. Chips, burg­ers, sweets are the most pop­u­lar items at school tuck shops, leav­ing healthier – and more pricey – items lan­guish­ing on the shelves. “The big­gest seller is the hot chips,” said Ardi Hag­glund, who runs the Camps Bay High School tuck shop.

“We serve what is wanted – they don’t want a salad, but they have the op­tion.

“If you want healthy food, you have to pay a big price,” he said. “But, we are serv­ing kids – they mostly can’t af­ford it.”

At Gar­dens Com­mer­cial High School, where most stu­dents come from the town­ships, healthier op­tions are more of a lux­ury, said Shi­haam Davids, who has run the tuck shop for more than a decade.

“I would sell healthier food, but un­for­tu­nately it is too ex­pen­sive for the kids,” Davids said.

Ev­ery­thing at the tuck shop – as­sorted sand­wiches, burg­ers, hot dogs, sal­ads and other snacks – is priced un­der R10.

“If you can buy a health bar for R8 and a candy bar for R3, our kids are go­ing to buy the candy bar,” she added.

At Con­stan­tia Wal­dorf School, a wealthy sec­ondary school in Con­stan­tia, only or­ganic food is sold at its tuck shop.

Bev­erly Klein­hans, who has run the shop there for 22 years, said the school fo­cused on pro­vid­ing healthy food for the chil­dren.

Stu­dents can buy freshly baked muffins, spinach quiche and salad, corn on the cob and var­i­ous sand­wiches.

One can even get freshly squeezed ap­ple juice, but that costs R10. No choco­late, chips or cooldrinks are sold.

“Most of th­ese chil­dren eat like this at home,” Klein­hans said.

Nu­tri­tion­ist An­niza de Vil­liers said par­ent in­volve­ment in low­er­in­come schools was lack­ing.

“Par­ents in more af­flu­ent schools can cham­pion for the tuck shop to drive healthier op­tions,” De Vil­liers said. “Par­ents in lower-in­come schools just do not have the time.”

The Ed­u­ca­tion and Health De­part­ments are fi­nal­is­ing guide­lines on healthier al­ter­na­tives for tuck shops such as pret­zels, dried fruit, health bars and flavoured wa­ter.

How­ever, en­forc­ing th­ese guide­lines, es­pe­cially in un­der­funded schools, was dif­fi­cult, De Vil­liers added. The teach­ers and staff were “al­ready too over­loaded to man­age such ef­forts”.

In a re­cent study by De Vil­liers, of the 100 low-in­come schools sur­veyed in the Western Cape, only eight had poli­cies gov­ern­ing the types of food sold at the tuck shops.

From grades 1 to 11, good eat­ing habits and nu­tri­tion are in­te­grated into the cur­ricu­lum, ac­cord­ing to Bron­agh Casey, spokes­woman at the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

In ad­di­tion, 342 Western Cape schools had food gar­dens, in­clud­ing schools in Khayelit­sha and Mitchells Plain, she said.

But keep­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles fresh was dif­fi­cult for some low­in­come schools, De Vil­liers ex­plained. Most of the schools she sur­veyed did not have re­frig­er­a­tor space for per­ish­able food.

Jane Bat­tersby, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cape Town who spe­cialises in food in­se­cu­rity, said sell­ing junk food at school com­pro­mised the nutritional mes­sage be­ing taught in the class­room.

“Even if th­ese kids are get­ting enough calo­ries, they are not get­ting the right nu­tri­ents, which has longterm de­vel­op­men­tal ef­fects.

“Such ef­fects in­clude stunted growth, lack of bone den­sity, heart disease and can­cer.

“You can­not undo the ef­fects of bad nu­tri­tion in the early years,” she ex­plained.

“When you adopt bad habits early, they stay with you.”

paige.suther­land@inl.co.za

GREEN CHOICE: Bev­er­ley Klein­hans cuts up an avocado for a pupil’s break tea. She has worked at Con­stan­tia Wal­dorf for 22 years.

PIC­TURES: THOMAS HOLDER

CALO­RIE-LADEN: A pupil wolfs down a burger and a cold DRINK at Camps Bay High.

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