Bus-loads of sugar removed from county’s school dinners


Release date: 4 February 2019

School dinners across West Sussex now contain 2.5kg less sugar per child a year than they did just four years ago – and the proof is not just in the pudding.

The latest menu for children to choose from now includes just 5g of sugar a day on average, down 73% on meals served up in 2014 when the average school dinner contained 18.5g of sugar.

West Sussex County Council's Catering Services Team has been working closely with Public Health specialists since the end of 2014 in a targeted effort to reduce the amount of sugar in primary school meals.

The West Sussex Sugar Reduction Programme has been run at no extra cost in collaboration with Chartwells the county council’s main primary school meals provider. In total, the amount of sugar that has been removed from meals over a school year is the equivalent weight of more than five double decker buses.

But crucially, the toughest critics - a team of pupil taste testers - have given the healthier meals the thumbs up, proving that there’s no need to compromise on taste and meal enjoyment when shelving the sugar.

Around 30,000 meals a day are served up in schools right across the county to children from Reception age up to Year 6. This was seen to be a great opportunity to make some small changes to meals that could yield large health gains for West Sussex children. 

Menus were re-engineered, new recipes were developed, and portion sizes were revised, allowing changes to be made without compromising on food choices, and crucially maintaining the requirements of the School Food Plan Standards.

The reduction comes as Public Health England release startling new figures showing that children across the country are eating twice as much sugar as they should be.

West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, Amanda Jupp, said: “We all know that eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and related health and dental problems. Ensuring our school dinners are low in sugar is an easy way to make sure our children are getting the right balance they need. For some children, their school dinner is their main meal of the day, so it is vital that it is nutritious.

“I am very proud that we have been able to go the extra mile to ensure our school meals remain nourishing, without compromising on taste.”

Children in England are eating an extra 2,800 sugar cubes a year, that’s more than double the recommended guidelines.

That’s 8 sugar cubes too many each day, 56 too many each week and around 2,800 too many every year. That’s equivalent to 312 cans of sugary cola each year or 469 higher-sugar yoghurts or 562 chocolate bars.

Too much sugar is bad for children’s health as it can lead to the build-up of harmful fat on the inside that we can't see. This fat can cause weight gain and serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, which people are getting younger than ever before, and heart disease and some cancers.

Too much sugar can also cause painful tooth decay and every 10 minutes, a child (in England) has a tooth removed in hospital.

Sugary drinks, confectionery, biscuits, cakes, desserts, higher-sugar breakfast cereals and higher-sugar yoghurts are all contributing to too much sugar in our children’s diets.

How much is too much? The maximum daily amounts of added sugar are:
4-6 years: 5 cubes (19 grams)
7-10 years: – 6 cubes (24 grams)
11+ years: – 7 cubes (30 grams)

More information can be found on the Change4Life website.

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