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Irish Heart Foundation calls for ban on schools serving junk food

Posted by Sally O'Brien, on 13/04/2015. Irish Heart Foundation calls for ban on schools serving junk foodTags: Parenting Food And Nutrition

Every day students in secondary schools in Ireland are being exposed to large amounts of junk food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt, while one in five teenagers in Ireland are now obese or overweight.

This is according to the Irish Heart Foundation, an Irish charity that helps families fight heart disease and stroke, which has published its findings of a recent survey on food provided by secondary schools.

The survey found that 51% of schools were supplying unhealthy foods and drinks through school tuck shops, vending machines and cafeterias, and that 40% of schools did not provide free drinking water for students.

According to,

“The survey of 39 post primary schools which looked at the type and range of meals provided, showed that while 37% of schools offered full hot meals and 37% offered cold snacks like sandwiches, nearly 70% of schools offered hot snacks including sausage rolls, pizza slices and paninis, many of which are high in fat and salt.”

Though measures in primary schools exist to prevent children eating and drinking junk food on site, no policies exist in secondary level, leading to what the charity is calling a ‘free for all’.

According to,

“Maureen Mulvihill, Head of Health Promotion, Irish Heart Foundation, stressed that the school environment is changing at second level, with increasing availability of hot and cold food and snacks available to pupils.
She said: “There is no national standard to ensure that healthy, tasty and nutritious foods are provided at second level, but positively 95% schools said they would be interested in a National Catering Standard, e.g. through a Healthy Catering Award scheme, which the Irish Heart Foundation aims to establish by year end.”

She added,

“As a first step the Irish Heart Foundation calls on the Department of Education and Skills to immediately publish a healthy food policy stating that there should be no sales of Top Shelf Foods from the Food Pyramid in schools, as indeed some schools have already done. This policy also needs to ensure that all schools provide free drinking water to pupils.”

Key findings of survey: (Schools could tick more than one item)

• Over half of schools - 51% - offer non chilled snacks e.g. confectionary (sweets, chocolate crisps) cereal bars, scones, buns, cakes.
• 47% (18) schools had vending machines; (two schools had removed the vending machine as part of the schools Healthy Eating Policy)
• 25% (10) had a tuck shop, selling a combination of hot and cold snacks, sandwiches and confectionery
• Only 60% (23) schools offered a free water service to students with 40% (15) schools not offering free water to schools
• 67% (26) provide hot snacks e.g. soup, panini, sausage rolls, pizza slice, many of which are high in fat and salt.
• 37% (14) provide full hot meals, such as meat, veg and potatoes or casserole dishes
• 37% (14) schools offered sandwiches and cold snack options e.g. fruit, yoghurts, salads, cheeses, juices, smoothies, cans etc



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