Teenagers should be forced to stay in school at lunchtimes to stop them going out for junk food, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said yesterday. He also called for councils to stop takeaways from opening near to schools. Addressing the Healthy Eating in Schools Conference in central London yesterday, Balls argued there was 'no point' in banning junk food in schools if teenagers can get unhealthy food from nearby shops which undercut school lunch prices. He said he would back head-teachers who wanted to bring in 'stay-on-site' policies, particularly for younger students in secondary schools.
He said while such schemes were not practical for all schools, they were popular with parents and a 'key part' in persuading young people to eat healthier lunches. Balls said, 'We've made huge progress on school food – but what goes on outside the school gates is as important as what happens inside.' Balls highlighted a plan by Waltham Forest Council to ban takeaways from opening within 400 metres of every school or youth facilities in the borough. Last month, research conducted by the Nutrition Policy Unit at London Metropolitan University, found despite moves to make school meals healthier, large numbers of children are still stocking up on calorie-laden, sugary foods from local shops. Figures released in July showed TV chef Jamie Oliver's healthy school dinners campaign was having some effect, with take up across English primary schools rising by 2.3 per cent to 43.6 per cent. But secondary schools are still not following the trend, with the figures showing take up was down 0.5 per cent this year.