Canteens in schools and institutes in 2030 to end childhood obesity

Children in a school canteen. / Maika salguero/Video: EP

The Government proposes an ambitious plan of 200 measures to fight against an epidemic that affects four out of ten children in Spain

It is not caused by a virus nor is it spread through the air, but childhood obesity is a serious epidemic that plagues the Western world, and particularly the Mediterranean countries. Spain occupies the dishonest third place in the European Union with the most children above their weight, 40% of the total. Two out of ten schoolchildren between six and nine years old are overweight and another 19% are even one step above and suffer from obesity. To curb this disease, which causes serious health problems in the short and long term, the Government presented this Friday an ambitious project that seeks to reduce between 20 and 25% the number of overweight children affected.

The National Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Childhood Obesity (2022-2030) has involved the Executive almost in full, but also representatives of civil society, such as the athletes Pau Gasol and Teresa Perales or the chef Joan Roca. 15 ministries have participated in the preparation of the document under the direction of the High Commissioner against Child Poverty, a leadership that explains that obesity affects twice as many children from families with fewer resources.

Among the 200 measures that have been put on the table, stands out the proposal that, in 2030, all schools (colleges and institutes) have school canteens, as well as the promotion of canteen scholarships for children in situations of vulnerability , initiatives that would require the agreement with the autonomous communities, which are the ones that have the competences in education. According to a study presented this week by the NGO Educo, barely 11% of Primary Education students benefit from a dining room scholarship when at least a third of Spanish schoolchildren are at risk of poverty and exclusion.

In addition, the Government wants children to increase their physical activity by 10%; that reduce sedentary lifestyle by 25%; that they have 10% more hours of sleep and that they increase adherence to the Mediterranean diet by 50%. To this end, the government plan proposes the commitment to digital cards to obtain food aid, the prescription of physical exercise, the incorporation of nutrition education into the curricula, the promotion of an integrated surveillance system for childhood obesity and its determinants, the opening of school playgrounds outside school hours so that children can play sports, the extension of green nuclei in urban areas or the healthy use of screens. "This is not an easy task," acknowledged the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, "but we have to solve this problem, which is a matter of State" and which is worsening because of "social inequality, exacerbated by the financial crisis , the pandemic or the rise in prices due to the war,” he insisted.

Children and adolescents who meet

the recommendations

of physical activity

The WHO recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per day

% of children who play sports

PASOS study of 2019 of the Gasol Foundation

Children and adolescents meeting physical activity recommendations

The WHO recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per day

% of children who play sports

PASOS study of 2019 of the Gasol Foundation

Children and adolescents meeting physical activity recommendations

The WHO recommends a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per day

% of children who play sports

PASOS study of 2019 of the Gasol Foundation

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared childhood obesity as the “epidemic of the 21st century”. In Spain, four out of ten boys and girls are overweight (23.3% overweight and 17.3% obese). By age groups, 34.9% of children between the ages of 8 and 16 are obese or overweight, a percentage that rises to 40.6% in the case of those between 6 and 9 years old, according to Unicef ​​data, which also alerts that with the pandemic, the figures have worsened. Economic inequality is directly related to being overweight. In households with less income, 23.7% of children suffer from obesity, compared to 10.5% in households with more means. The director of Public Health and the Environment of the WHO, María Neira, stressed that "preventing obesity requires the participation of all sectors and society as a whole."

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