Croydon is leading the way in tackling child obesity, as one of London’s two new food flagship boroughs. The announcement made last week by Mayor Boris Johnson sees Croydon and Lambeth set to pioneer projects from the “Lighter London” programme in schools and communities. Over a five year period the scheme will educate children about healthy eating.
The initiative is much needed. According to Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSIC) and its National Child Measurement programme in Croydon, as many as one in five children are overweight or obese when they start primary school and by age 11 one in three children are overweight or obese. Schoolchildren are growing up in a world where overweight is normal, given that six in ten adults in Croydon are overweight by the age of 45.
Lessons will build on the School Food Plan written by Leon restaurant founders, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, which was launched earlier this year. Backed by the government, it focuses on how to transform what children eat at school and how they learn about food.
Croydon was selected after a competitive application process with 20 other boroughs showing high interest in the scheme. At the launch, Boris Johnson said: “Croydon and Lambeth will put this to the test through a series of initiatives designed to improve health, helping to tackle the serious issues of obesity and poor diet and boosting academic achievement.”
From September, Croydon will be set to implement or expand projects that will encourage a more natural relationship with food. Cooking returns to the curriculum along learning about funding for food business start-ups, community cooking classes and initiatives to reduce students’ sugar intakes.
“Food matters” said Councillor Louisa Woodley cabinet member for Croydon council’s People and Communities. “The public health of our society depends on it and as a flagship food borough, Croydon gets to play a leading role in improving London’s food system as a whole, by sharing the benefits learnt with other areas of the capital.”