Manchester Evening News

Leisure centre junk food under scrutiny

- By ROB PARSONS Northern Agenda Editor

WHY does my leisure centre smell like chips? That’s the question asked by young people in Sheffield as they pointed out the amount of junk food on offer in buildings supposedly dedicated to getting us healthier.

At the entrance of Ponds Forge swimming pool they saw cute, cuddly, characters on vending machines full of junk food, while at IceSheffie­ld it was hard to find something to eat that wasn’t a chip butty, a chocolate bar, or a packet of crisps.

Bite Back, a young people’s campaign group, met Sheffield City Council officials and asked them to protect child health by increasing options for healthy and affordable food in council-owned spaces, and reducing the sale of unhealthy food. And inspiringl­y (for those who’ve become jaded by the ability of politics to make a difference) it worked.

The Labour-run council is now looking for a new sport and leisure facilities food operator, along with recommenda­tions about high-fat, high-sugar products and how they should be displayed.

The young campaigner­s had photo evidence to back their arguments up and shock officials into action, as well as a video showing the food offerings at several city facilities.

And at a meeting this week local councillor Marieanne Elliot said: “They showed

us vending machines with brand advertisin­g all over them, strategica­lly placed in the most visible places, and then we’ve got the water coolers in an area where no one can see them. It’s a strange inconsiste­ncy when we’re talking about health and wellbeing.”

Hannah Sharpe, senior manager campaigns and relationsh­ips at Bite Back 2030, said the images were “a wake-up call to the food system that young people are experienci­ng in Sheffield”.

“We’re in the midst of a global epidemic of food-related ill health and it’s endangerin­g the health of a generation.

“Sheffield City Council knows there is still a way to go to make sure Sheffield is a place where young people grow up healthy.

“It’s great to see a council in the North of England taking steps in the right direction to prioritise child health.”

With this local success behind them, Bite Back don’t plan to stop there and have in recent months been working with officials in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire authoritie­s to make changes locally.

“Together, we demand higher standards from food marketing, and higher standards from the food we eat every day,” said Miss Sharpe. And we mobilise other young people to fight for better food: protesting outside Parliament, applying positive pressure to big business, and sharing our stories with the world.

“Young people deserve access to healthy, nutritious food at school. But that’s not what usually happens.

“So we’ve been shaking things up from the inside with our Bite Back in Schools programme.”

 ?? ?? Questions have been raised about junk food on sale at leisure
Questions have been raised about junk food on sale at leisure

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