As canteens reopen for the new school year the Association of Nutritionists has said that the Consell must limit the bidding for school meal contracts, only to those companies that comply with the provision of a healthy meal, whilst at the same time Dietitians are requesting that school canteens receive regular inspections and audits.

With school meals being served from the first day of term, community nutrition professionals belonging to the Official College of Dietitians and Nutritionists are already warning of serious food deficiencies in many school canteens.

Inma Girba, a member of the healthy dining room commission of the Official College of Nutritionists, says that “In the preparation of their menu’s a large number of contractors are using criteria that deviate from healthy eating.” She adds that the analysis made by nutritionists in this regard reveals “serious nutritional imbalances.”

More than half of all Primary students eat in the school dining room and nutritionists warn that the menus do not provide the correct amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals that are required.

Luis Cabañas, secretary of the official school of nutritionists, adds that, as a result of all this, more controls are required with the composition of school menus so that they meet minimum nutritional requirements, in which eggs, fresh vegetables and legumes which have “very little content in some menus, with a much lower consumption than desired.”

Inma Girba added that following a study carried out in schools throughout the Community they found an excess of pasta, white flour, rice and dairy products and sugar. “All of these dietary imbalances, together with the increase in sedentary lifestyle, contributes to a progressive increase in weight that is accompanied by a growing amount of tooth decay.”

Nutritionists say that the incidence childhood obesity is close to epidemic proportions while Association President, Paula Crespo, says that “The Valencian Community is the third in the country with the highest number of obese children.”

They therefore emphasise the need for much stricter control by the Public Administration which include regular audits of school dining rooms and the requirement that the tendering for dining services be limited to those companies that meet the requirements of a healthy diet.

When approached by the local press many schools and dining room contractors refuse to comment with all of them preferring to attribute the high rates of childhood obesity in the Community to an excessive sedentary lifestyle rather than the food that children receive in dining rooms.

One teacher told The Leader that she often watches at the gates as children leave school. “You see them taking cakes, crisps and fizzy drinks from their satchels almost as soon as they are off the school premises.”  She added that “during one school excursion last term many of the children complained that they had to walk, as they had become accustomed to going everywhere by car.”