LAST Saturday afternoon, I had the pleasure of doing some bag packing at a busy local supermarket in aid of Crumlin Children’s Hospital. I was more than happy to do it, as the money raised was going to such a fantastic cause.
By and large, it was a really positive experience, with most if not all customers happy to exchange pleasantries with the volunteers as we tried our best to pack away their groceries in an orderly fashion.
Standing at a busy checkout for the afternoon was also a fascinating experience as it gave a real insight into what goes into a person’s weekly shop.
I wish I could report that I was blown away by the contents of the shopping trolleys, but in fact I was horrified by the level of junk food people were buying. The amount of processed, sugary, fatty food that was being purchased along with litres of fizzy drinks was downright depressing.
In May 2018 the Government introduced a sugar sweetened drink (SSD) tax, aimed at reducing the amount of fizzy beverages being consumed in Ireland in an effort to curb growing levels of obesity and general ill health among the nation. If last Saturday was anything to go by, this tax is not working.
This week it was announced that the SSD tax raised €31.72m in the first year, but unlike the UK, the money has gone straight into the Exchequer pool rather than being ring-fenced to directly tackle the obesity crisis.
Professor Donal O’Shea, the HSE’s lead on obesity, has called it a ‘missed opportunity’ that this money is not being directly used for treatment and prevention of obesity.
In an interesting tangent, last weekend Senator Catherine Noone has called on the
Government to introduce free gym memberships to children and teenagers in a bid to tackle the teenage binge-drinking crisis.
She referenced Iceland, where the government there significantly reduced alcohol abuse by giving each child aged between six and 18 a card for €350-worth of free membership of gyms, sports clubs, dance and music schools and youth clubs.
It’s safe to say such an initiative would also have a positive effect on childhood obesity rates.
But should we be relying on our Government to ensure our children and teenagers are living a healthy lifestyle? Don’t get me wrong, any such measure like what was introduced in Iceland would be most welcome here.
But if parents keep filling their weekly shopping trolleys with crap, it won’t matter what Government policies are introduced as their impact will be minimal.
First and foremost, children learn from the behaviour of their parents. So if we want the youth of today to engage in a healthy, active lifestyle, we should start by doing likewise ourselves. Quite simply, cut out the crap folks, and don’t wait for the Government to try and solve the problem for us.