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Supporter Newsletters 2012 - January February March April May July August



August 2012

Golden delicious: take a bite for a healthier Olympics - view / download a pdf of our August supporter newsletter (distributed at the beginning of September), which focused on our post-Olympic supporter action and rounded-up news and opinion from the summer.

July 2012

Let the Games begin - view / download a pdf of our July supporter newsletter, which focused on our new report The Obesity Games, launched on the eve of the Olympic Games.

May 2012

Will MPs weigh up the evidence?

Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

We've been campaigners-in-waiting this month. Sadly this isn’t some special role in the Jubilee celebrations, but instead a case of being on constant alert for the launch of three government consultations. One (on labelling) has now been published, but two others (on the curriculum and on free school meal eligibility) have been delayed again.  Don’t worry though, we haven’t been standing still.  May has seen us take advantage of a fair campaigning wind and the opportunity of a new parliamentary session to push our Save Our School Food Standards campaign.  Read on for details on these stories and more, including a welcome contribution from the new England football team captain ….

Save Our School Food Standards

The typical response by Coalition MPs and Ministers to our campaign so far has been that there is “no evidence that academies provide a less healthy diet than other schools”.  So now it is all about the evidence … and challenging the faith that these MPs have that academies will stick to the standards.  Here’s how we have taken the fight to them:

Bish … School Food Trust releases a report that shocks even us with its findings that nine out of every 10 academies it surveyed are selling pupils junk food such as crisps, chocolate and cereal bars that are banned in maintained schools.

Bash …  Jamie Oliver writes to all MPs demanding that the standards have to apply to academies too.

Bosh … Zac Goldsmith MP re-tables the Early Day Motion calling on school food standards to apply to all schools. The Chair of a Parliamentary Group on School Food supports the campaign and urges MPs to sign the Motion – and already 77 MPs (21 more than in the last session) have.

We need to keep the pressure up. Please write to your MP again, drawing their attention to the new evidence, and asking them to sign / support EDM54.  Ask them to write to Michael Gove and Schools Minister Sarah Teather to put this same point across too.

Take action here: www.sosfood.org.uk
 

Better food labelling

Tell the Government your views on food labelling

The UK Government has launched a consultation on front-of-pack food labelling. They want to recommend a single system of labelling to the food industry, as currently different shops and companies use various forms of labels.  

We know labels that include colour coding (like traffic lights) are preferred by shoppers as they help us to make quick informed decisions about what's in the food we buy. You can have your say on the kind of labelling scheme you want to see and together, we can ensure the UK Government recommends the right scheme to the food industry.

The British Heart Foundation have put together an easy way of contributing to the consultation. Tell the Government your views on food labelling here.

Campaign News in Brief

i) Cooking on the Curriculum

We joined more high profile people, including Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard, in signing a letter to the Prime Minister calling for compulsory practical cooking lessons. The influential Environmental Audit Committee made a similar recommendation in its recent report on sustainable food.

ii) Chuck the Junk off Checkouts for good

Our Checkouts Checked Out report, launched a month ago, is still getting media attention and thanks to your contributions, we’ve been building up our checkouts’ Wall of Shame.  Please continue sending us – by email, Facebook or Twitter – your examples of offending checkouts and queuing areas.

iii) Free School Meals

We’re backing The Children’s Society’s new Fair and Square campaign calling for new rules to make sure that all children in need of a free school meal receive one. Please sign their petition. What do children think about free school meals? The Child Poverty Action Group and British Youth Council are launching a report which tries to answer this. The report is being launched at an event in the House of Commons on Thursday 14 June at 11am. To attend, register here.

And finally we note that the Advertising Standards Authority is celebrating its 50th birthday this week.  Perhaps with age will come wisdom … and a better regulatory regime!

Happy Jubilee weekend,

Malcolm
Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator

 



April 2012 

Supermarket checkouts and MPs' views checked out

Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

Easter-eggs may now have disappeared off the shelves near the checkout for this year, but in many stores an array of sweets and chocolates still confront shoppers as they queue for the till.  Checkouts were the subject of a report we launched this month.  We’ve also been checking out MPs’ views on what might happen to school meals, vending machines and tuck shops at academy schools now the nutritional standards no longer apply to them.

For these and more stories, including some pointers as to what’s in store for campaigning in May, please read on ….. .
  
1) Get the junk off the checkouts – once and for all!

“Shopping with my kids is hard enough as it is, so to be subjected to rows of sweets and chocolates at the checkout is maddening. I want it to be easier to choose healthy options for my family.”

Mother of four Amanda Flint was fed up with supermarkets placing junk food by checkouts within her children’s sight and easy grasp, and wrote to us to ask why retailers were still doing it. We launched an investigation to see how widespread the promotion of unhealthy snacks at checkout tills and in queuing areas still is.

Key findings of our Checkouts Checked Out report, launched on 25 April, were:

  • Asda, Morrisons and Iceland are named as the “worst offenders”, by displaying junk food on four out of five checkouts in their stores.
  • Most high-street supermarkets continue to promote and sell unhealthy snacks at the checkout and/or queuing areas, a decade after making promises to reduce or remove them.
  • Bad practices are now spreading to smaller format stores, where we do increasing amounts of our shopping, and to non-food retailers.
  • Good practice exists: we found some stores which only had non-food at the checkout (e.g batteries, magazines), or which promoted healthy options such as fresh fruit. 

It’s time to show supermarkets the red card for their sneaky checkout marketing practices which put their profits ahead of families’ health. Stores should stop displaying and promoting unhealthy food and drink products at or near their checkout tills. Help us get the junk off checkouts once and for all. See our website for for details of our ‘Wall of Shame’ (send us your images of checkout displays) and the ‘Checkout Test’ you can carry out when you go shopping.

www.sustainweb.org/childrensfoodcampaign/chuck_junk 

2) Save Our School Food Standards

In March we emailed you about our new campaign to press for the mandatory school food nutritional standards to be applied to academy schools.  Given that now over half of all secondary schools have switched to academy status, the issue is ever more critical for parents wanting to ensure their children are getting a nutritious meal and studying in a junk-food free environment.

LACA (representing school caterers), Jamie Oliver Foundation, School Food Matters, Food for Life Partnership and ourselves have all been very active promoting the campaign. Jamie’s been leading the charge in the media, and the School Food Trust has just weighed in with a thorough analysis of school meals in secondary schools to support the case for continuing with mandatory nutritional standards.

Thanks to your actions, urging your MP to support Zac Goldsmith’s Early Day Motion, half of all MPs in Parliament have now been contacted and 56 have signed up. Campaign partners have also held meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Schools Minister Sarah Teather.

Together we have ensured that this issue is reaching the in-tray of Michael Gove. But this is only the beginning of the campaign. If you haven’t already written to your MP, you can do so easily via the SOSfood website.  Please encourage your friends and family to take action too, and stand by for more campaigning when the new session of Parliament starts in mid-May.

www.sosfood.org.uk


3) Getting our teeth into the Calorie Reduction Pledge

Cutting calories is the focus of the latest of the government’s flagship public health Responsibility Deal pledges. Yet the calorie reduction pledges published so far only cover a small proportion of companies' products, are unenforceable and unmeasurable, and big names such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC are conspicuously missing. Without an end to junk food marketing promotions, industry’s token gestures are worthless. We are pleased to have heard that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is personally aware of the Campaign’s criticisms of the pledge.

We also marked the first anniversary of the Responsibility Deal by producing a brief report highlighting companies which still haven’t become partners and/or which haven’t signed specific food pledges. The decision of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges to launch an inquiry into the nation’s ‘obesity time-bomb’ puts the government’s obesity strategy further under the spotlight.

Campaign News in Brief

i) Free School Meals
We’re backing The Children’s Society’s new campaign Fair and Square to ensure that all children in need of a free school meal receive one. More than half of all school-age children living in poverty aren't getting free school meals. Sign the petition to ensure that our poorest children get the free school meals they need to thrive. In May the government will launch a public consultation on the changes to free school meal entitlement as part of the introduction of the new Universal Credit. We’ll let you know how you can contribute to that consultation.

ii) Food Growing in Schools
The government-backed Food Growing in Schools Taskforce has published its final report. This provides compelling evidence that food growing in schools is an "essential" tool in improving children's health and wellbeing. Disappointingly, the government has so far failed to engage with the report’s recommendations.

iii) Food Revolution Day – 19 May
Food Revolution Day is a new global day of action organised by Jamie Oliver to increase the focus on food issues and rally efforts to bring food education back into schools. Find out how you organise your own activity, or join in with others’ events, and stand up for real food at http://foodrevolutionday.com

best wishes,

Malcolm Clark

Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator
 



March 2012

SOS food standards - action special 

Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

New campaign action launched on school food standards:

  • Years of hard work to improve school meals are being undone 
  • Government policies are placing our children’s health and education at risk 
  • It would cost nothing to make existing food standards apply to academy schools
  • Ask your MP to support our campaign now    www.sosfood.org.uk


Save Our School Food Standards

Yesterday, Jamie Oliver sounded an SOS call on school food standards. He warned that “the nutritional standards we fought so hard to introduce are not being applied to the new academies and, as a result, the bad old days of reconstituted meat shapes and chips every day could easily make a comeback.”

Mandatory school food standards give parents peace of mind, knowing that whatever temptations lurk beyond the gate, at least in school their children will eat a nutritious meal and have healthy snacks.

There is no excuse for poor quality food creeping back on the menu or junk-food vending machines edging their way back onto school grounds. Yet the move to academy status creates an opening for this to happen. All the government needs to do to protect the million plus children who already attend academy schools is ensure that the mandatory standards apply to all schools, whatever their status.

The Prime Minister should pay attention to his American hosts this week. The Obamas have led from the top on healthy eating initiatives and, with the newly introduced US school lunch standards, have recognised that only mandatory rules work.

Don’t let British schools slip behind their American cousins. Tell your MP that school food matters to you.

Zac Goldsmith MP has just tabled a parliamentary motion urging the government to enforce school food standards across all schools. Ask your MP to support the motion. It already has the backing of LACA (school caterers), The Food for Life Partnership and School Food Matters and the Jamie Oliver Foundation. Even Henry Winkler – aka The Fonz – has tweeted his support! 

Already over 100 MPs have been contacted, but we need to send a strong message to the government, and to do that we need as many MPs as possible from across all parties to sign this motion.

School food should fuel children’s academic growth, not their waistlines. Let’s remove the current uncertainty and worry for all parents.

Take action now at www.sosfood.org.uk

thanks,

Malcolm Clark
Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator

PS Use the Twitter hashtag #sosfood to promote the campaign. And check out Jamie's campaign facebook page.

 



February 2012

Cereal offenders and other sugary stories

Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign,

February: a saccharine-themed month on the high street. And indeed, sugar has been the dominant ingredient in our campaign mix: from responding to new research on sugary cereals, to handing in complaints about the online marketing of unhealthy products. Our super-complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority was a hit with the media; though predictably the food industry’s response to us was rather less sweet.  And then there was the Prime Minister's reply to our joint letter on the importance of cooking lessons in schools, which itself needed a dose of added sweetener.

Read on for more on these stories, and a heads-up about campaign and publication launches in March.


Online Marketing Super-complaint

54 websites. 54 letters. 1 addressee. Welcome to our super-complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority highlighting the pervasive nature of online junk food marketing to children.  Earlier this month we hand-delivered 54 separate complaints to the ASA, each concerning a website promoting products classified as ‘high in sugars or fat or salt’ and that clearly target at children.  The complaints were drawn from our joint report with the British Heart Foundation which exposes how junk food manufacturers bombard kids online in order to push their unhealthy products, and which calls for consistent advertising regulations across all forms of media.
We will let you know how seriously the ASA treats these concerns, and how the Minister responsible, Ed Vaizey MP, judges the effectiveness of the regulation for himself.

NB a big thanks to CFC’s Kawther Hashem, whose hard work enabled this and many of our other reports from the past year, and has now got a new role with Consumers International.

Cereal Offenders – the facts

  1. “Sugar is cheap, sugar tastes good and sugar sells, so companies have little incentive to change.” That’s the verdict of an article – The Toxic Truth About Sugar – published recently in science journal Nature.  The authors point out that sugar is anything but sweet for the body. As well as dental decay, sugar consumption contributes to the rise of childhood obesity and diabetes.
  2. Consumer champions Which? has just released a report about the high sugar content of the majority of breakfast cereals, especially those aimed at children.  Which? found that many of these cereals are laden with so much sugar they ought to be sold alongside chocolate biscuits, not marketed as a recipe for a healthy start to a child’s day.
  3.  "Dishonest but not illegal” (though it should be) – that’s the verdict on cereal manufacturers' marketing by respected food writer Joanna Blythman.  As she says, sugary cereals are "the food industry’s biggest con trick. Even worse, the victims are your children".

The bigger picture cereal companies don’t want you to see

Responding to the bad PR, cereal giant Kellogg’s blamed us pesky health campaigners for “fixating on particular products without seeing that there are a huge number of cereals people can choose from when shopping.” 

So let’s examine that bigger picture. Despite the heralded choice of hundreds of cereals on offer, most of them have medium-to-high levels of sugar (and salt).  When it comes to the supermarket shelf, some cereals are definitely more equal than others. Food manufacturers spend millions advertising unhealthy products, and find ever more ingenious ways of making their packaging, websites and marketing materials target or appeal to children. In addition, promotional offers encourage consumers to buy more of these unhealthy foods.  And many companies – Kellogg’s included – refuse to adopt the Traffic Light Labelling system recommended by the Food Standards Agency, which would help make it easier for parents and children to make healthy eating choices. To top it all, these same food companies are invited to Whitehall to help set government public health policy.

It is time that the shelves were stacked more in favour of parents and children, not the food industry.

Cameron Cooking Response

Back in January we wrote to the Prime Minister regarding the importance of cooking lessons in schools. It was a joint letter signed by representatives of twenty-nine charities, professional bodies and campaign groups. 

We’ve now got his response and there's not much to report  The PM does say the Education Secretary hasn't yet made any decision on the future position of practical food skills within the curriculum; though he also says it is possible that no subjects beyond the four core ones will be part of the revised National Curriculum.

We have more work to do to convince this government that cooking should be taught in all schools and to all ages, so no child misses out on gaining this most basic of life skills.

March Plans

Look out in the coming month for:

  • a campaign action calling on MPs to back our call for school food nutritional standards to apply to academies.
  • publication of the final report and recommendations from the Food Growing in Schools Taskforce, which we helped to set up.
  • publication of our own report on what junk food products are on sale by supermarket check-outs.

Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the soon-to-be-launched – and deeply unsatisfactory – government’s responsibility deal calorie reduction pledge. More on that another time, as we want to end this bulletin on a sweet note. Congratulations to Plymouth City Council, winners of the Food for Life Gold Catering Award for their school food provision.

best wishes,

Malcolm Clark
Children's Food Campaign Co-ordinator
 



January 2012

What's cooking in our campaign kitchen?

Dear friends of the Children's Food Campaign, 

There’s lots cooking in our campaign kitchen as we get stuck into our 2012 activities. In this supporter email we have a look ahead to the coming year’s campaigning, round-up January’s news, and plug some campaign actions which we need your help with.

We may have rung in the New Year a month ago, but we are still picking up press coverage from our activities during the Christmas break. Chief among them was our media release on the “dodgiest junk food marketing claims of 2011”, which has led Coca-Cola to withdraw a misleading marketing claim they made about their Vitamin Water range. Our response to McDonald’s latest “inappropriate marketing strategy” to sell more Happy Meals to kids has also gained widespread attention.

Another place we added our questioning voice was the new phase of Change4Life – the government’s anti-obesity campaign. It was announced with great fanfare that three supermarkets would offer discounts on a range of healthy food. But one of those supermarkets, Aldi, later confirmed that it wouldn’t be offering any special discounts, and all of them also have ‘special offers’ on unhealthy products.

Over the coming months we’ll let you know how you can help with a range of key campaign issues, including:

(i) cooking lessons in schools – feeding into the second stage of the national curriculum review, we will be pushing for 24 hours of practical cooking lessons for each of Key Stages 1, 2 & 3.

(ii) free school meals – a consultation is expected soon as part of the benefit system shake-up. We are working with a range of charities and unions to push the case that free school meals should be provided to all children whose families will receive the new Universal Credit in 2013.

(iii) food growing in schools – publication of the final report and recommendations from the Government’s Taskforce (which was set up in response to our campaigning).

(iv) school food nutritional standards – putting pressure on the Government to apply the standards to academies, which almost half of all secondary schoolchildren now attend.

In addition, we are continuing our work to protect children from junk food marketing, and have several mini-reports and campaigns activities planned, including one following the joint report we published with the British Heart Foundation on the marketing of high fat, salt or sugar products to children online 'The 21st century gingerbread house'.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already taken our campaign actions on our website, now’s your chance to do so – the more actions taken, the louder our voice is.

Enough on their plate: better food for vulnerable children

With around 2,300 children in custody at any one time, England and Wales has the highest rate of child imprisonment in Western Europe. A recent report highlights the poor food that many children in custody receive, with cold, repetitive and unhealthy meals the norm in many cases, and even reports of children being bullied into handing over fruit bought from the tuck shop. Children reported that they were frequently hungry due to small portions, and some commented that it affected their concentration and behaviour. A summary of the research is available here.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, who conducted the research, is working with the School Food Trust and Ministry of Justice to address this issue. For more information about the Howard League’s work, visit their website


Best wishes,

Malcolm Clark and Kawther Hashem
Children's Food Campaign Coordinators

PS as the eagle-eyed will spot, there's a new name at the bottom of the emails. Malcolm has just joined the team; taking over from Christine, who is now working for the World Development Movement. We thank her for all her dedication, passion and hard work taking forward the campaign over the past few years.


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