Improving Scotland’s health is a generational challenge and improving the health of younger Scots is an important first step.
School meals are an opportunity to provide pupils with a healthy and nutritious meal and also to encourage them to have a healthier diet more generally. A healthy diet at school not only benefits the health of pupils but has also been shown to boost attainment and improve concentration. This is also an opportunity to support Scottish farmers.
Scotland’s farmers produce some of the highest quality produce in the world and, in my view, it’s right that we aim to put that food on the plates of young people in Scotland. I have already been campaigning for changes to local authority procurement procedures to put a greater emphasis on local sourcing and intend to continue pushing this issue.
We also need to ensure that pupils take advantage of the healthy meals available in schools. There’s no point in teaching children about the value of a healthy diet, then just watching them walk out the school gates at lunchtime to the burger van across the road or the fast food shop around the corner. That’s why I’m calling for local authorities to be given the power to create exclusion zones around schools and curb the growing number of fast food restaurants setting up near schools. Schools should be the perfect place to learn good eating habits which can last a lifetime, but right now it’s just too easy to get hold of junk food at lunch time.