Sharon Hodgson

Labour Party Candidate - Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

Sharon reacts to the publication of the Childhood Obesity Strategy

In her capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for School Food, read Sharon's reaction to the publication of the Childhood Obesity Strategy:

"After many delays and stumbles along the way, the Government has finally published their Childhood Obesity Strategy, sadly at a time when Parliament is not sitting and Members of Parliament are unable to scrutinise the document fully. It is clear why this is: the Government have failed to develop a 'game-changing' comprehensive strategy that we were all promised would help address the burgeoning crisis of childhood obesity in this country, and instead have received a 13-page plan which could have been a lot stronger and gone further to tackle this issue.

"Whilst this is a downgraded plan, there is still some measures, such as a re-commitment to the sugary drinks levy and the pledge that £10 million a year fund of that levy will be for breakfast clubs, which should be welcomed. It is also welcome to see that the Government have finally recognised the inequality seen in their fragmented school system where certain schools must abide by the new School Food Standards, however, they could have gone further with this and ensured that all schools had to adhere to school food standards. I will await with bated breath for the detail of how the Education Secretary will campaign to encourage all schools to commit to the standards.

"It is also welcome after the lobbying by the APPG on School Food, to see that the Government will be working to develop a new voluntary healthy rating scheme that will be taken into account as part of Ofsted inspections into healthy eating and lifestyles in our schools, along with the consultation with schools and experts on the new rating criterion. This will need close monitoring to see how the new scheme is developed and implemented. It is seven years since the last thematic review of school food by Ofsted, so I welcome the 2017 planned review on obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools, which I hope will be the start of closer monitoring of school food.

"It will also be interesting to see what advice Public Health England will be giving to schools for those at the front-line of tackling childhood obesity, such as our school nurses, health centres, healthy weight teams in local authorities, not forgetting the vital role of our school catering teams.

"One significant omission from this plan is the Government's failure to address the double burden of malnutrition and children's access to good healthy food in our communities all year round. This summer has seen almost daily press reports on holiday hunger and with tens of thousands of children reliant on food banks in the country, Ministers have failed to make any commitments to address child holiday hunger.

"This childhood obesity plan could have gone a lot further in regards to the food our children are eating in school and in our communities. It could have made serious inroads into addressing an issue which is costing our nation's health, and to ensure that we finally tackle this issue. They have stated 'this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word', I, for one, will continue to hold the Government's feet to the fire and ensure that they deliver not only on what they have outlined but also ensure they think wider than this on how best we reverse the obesity trends in our country."

You can also read a speech Sharon delivered in the House of Commons on the Childhood Obesity Strategy in January 2016 here.

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