RADICAL steps are being taken to tackle obesity in Flintshire schools.
Break-time trips to the vending machine could soon become a thing of the past.
Ice cream vans at the school gates and sweet stops on the way home are also causes for concern.
Flintshire Council is taking tough measures to prevent the next generation of obese schoolchildren.
Some 22 per cent of pupils aged four to five and 26-28 per cent of eight to nine-year-olds are overweight or obese, according to figures in the authority’s Good Health, Good Care 2011-2014 Health Social Care and Well-being strategy.
The preliminary all-Wales information from the childhood heights and weights study has prompted the council to act.
Vending machines selling high fat and sugar snacks and energy drinks could be the first thing to go.
The topic sparked healthy debate at a meeting of Flintshire Council’s lifelong learning overview and scrutiny committee.
Claire Broad, Flintshire’s healthy schools officer, told councillors: “We are working with all of our secondary schools addressing what’s in their vending machines.
“They contribute financially to schools and I believe that schools may be be resisting the changes for this reason, but they soon won’t have any control.”
She spoke of a planned phaseout of the “dubious content” of the snack dispensers which included caffeinated energy drinks and high calorie sweets.
The healthy schools scheme will see these replaced with options, including fresh fruit and flavoured water. Due to the practicality of keeping them stocked with perishable foods, the dispensers may become redundant altogether.
Cllr Stella Jones said: “It’s no good filling the vending machines with things that children aren’t going to eat, you would be better off getting rid of them.”
Cllr Nancy Matthews said: “They do provide finance to schools. We shouldn’t paint them in a dark colour. They are extremely useful for support.”
Cllr Jones highlighted the problem of ice cream vans pitching up outside schools.
School governor, David Hytch said: “You can’t force children but you can deprive them of opportunity. If you don’t give them money that limits them, if you can keep them on site at lunchtime that helps too.”
Miss Broad talked of the of using planning policy to stop sweet shops cropping up along a school route.
Cllr Ian Roberts asked if children were going to be banned from bringing cake into school on their birthday. Miss Broad said on particularly special occasions it was permitted but in a class of 30 there could be a birthday every week!
Cllr Marion Bateman said she hated children being served their main and dessert courses from the same plate.
Miss Broad spoke of a pilot in Wrexham where household crockery was brought in and bowls put in the centre of the table for children to serve themselves.
She said she would look into something similar for Flintshire.