Ireland’s secondary schools slow to give up vending machines selling ‘junk food’

Survey also shows majority of post-primary schools are not providing two-hours of PE per week

Survey indicates primary schools have moved to reduce the availability of fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps in school shops and vending machines.

Survey indicates primary schools have moved to reduce the availability of fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps in school shops and vending machines.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00


Secondary schools are slow to give up vending machines selling “junk food”, according to a study. And Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn plans to intervene to change the situation.

Results from the Lifeskills Survey 2012 also show the majority of post-primary schools are not providing the two hours of PE per week as required by the Department of Education. More than 90 per cent do not meet the two-hour requirement.

The survey collates school responses to questions in areas such as promoting healthy eating, provision of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and whether education is provided on bullying, drug and alcohol abuse and stay-safe programmes.

Response levels are relatively low, with 68 per cent of primary and 52 per cent of post-primary schools providing figures used in the 2012 survey.

Primary schools have moved to reduce the availability of fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps in school shops and vending machines, the survey indicated, with 99.7 per cent of respondents saying their sale was not facilitated. The situation in post-primary schools is much different, however, with 30 per cent of respondents saying “junk foods” were available in school shops or in vending machines.


Obesity problem
“The prominence of vending machines and school shops that sell junk food in a significant cohort of post-primary schools is a particular problem. Schools should proactively address this important area, particularly in light of the growing obesity phenomenon,” noted the report

.

Mr Quinn also focused on the issue, saying the vast majority of primary schools were doing great work in the area. “I would like to see this good work continue into the post-primary sector.”

While he could not dictate what foods schools sold through vending machines, it was necessary to help young people make informed choices. “I intend to issue advice to schools via a circular shortly,” he said.

The survey showed that most primary schools achieved the recommended one hour of PE per week. The sector also achieved 90 per cent or higher involvement in providing education on substance abuse and smoking, RSE and had an anti-bullying policy in place.