It appears the missionary work of the blessed Jamie Oliver has faltered in the face of heathen attitudes.

The ambitious plan to provide 44m pieces of fruit or veg every year to 2 million children in 18,000 schools across the country is lurching towards failure.

The simple problem is that the younger generation do not want to eat food classed as healthy, they genuinely are the fast food generation that demands instant gratification from crisps and other snacks.

Authors of a study into the scheme suggest part of the problem could lie in that well-known childhood malaise – boredom. Children taking part in the initiative and the study were not enthused with the limited range of fruit on offer, which usually consists of apples, pears, easy-peel citrus fruit and bananas.

The study found that although the fruit and veg was being distributed to children, their overall daily diets had hardly changed.

One solution being suggested is an expansion of the Food Dudes campaign, devised by the Food and Activity Research Unit at Bangor University. Professor Fergus Lowe believes tackling the attitudes of the younger generation  – and society as a whole – towards “healthy” and “junk” food is still not being addressed properly.

“I got into (this) because of my children coming home and asking us not to let salad be seen in their sandwiches,” he explains. “If kids eat chocolate bars and crisps they are one of the gang.”

So does the solution lie in more draconian measures, such as imposing a “fat tax” on a wide range of unhealthy foods?

Supporters of such a move maintain it could prevent 3,000 heart attacks and strokes every year. But it singularly fails to tackle the damaging food culture that has developed in this country over the last decade or more – plus it says something that Tony Blair apparently rejected such a move in 2004 because it smacked to much of the “nanny state” approach.

Rather than debating the pro’s and con’s of such a “fat tax”, shouldn’t we be investing more time and resources in educating people about the solid reasons why junk food is bad?

More importantly, such a campaign should focus more on why healthy foods are not only good for us, but are also affordable. Too often budgetary constraints and the perceived high cost of “healthy” food is cited as reasons why people stick with the high fat, unhealthy convenience option.

As a nation we’ve become too caught up in the pace of modern life and mistakenly believe that everything needs to be done as quickly and conveniently as possible.

Even spending an extra few minutes shopping for fresh ingredients is regarded as a time-consuming chore. So actually preparing and cooking a healthy meal is regarded as tantamount to wasting your life away, rather than improving your own well-being.

This is the culture that needs to be changed and which is having such a damaging impact on children.

We need to make fresh, healthy food glorious again.


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