SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Officials in Amsterdam wants to restrict the number of snack bars and fast food joints near schools in an effort to reduce obesity rates among the city’s children.
A campaign launched in 2012 helped reduced the percentage of too-heavy children in the Dutch capital from 21% to 18% over a three-year period but the decline has since halted.
Now alderman Simone Kukenheim plans to take further action to improve the health of the city’s school going children. She wants to introduce a ‘healthy belt’ around schools without snack bars to prevent children filling up on chips and sweets during their breaks, the Parool reported at the weekend.
Kukenheim hopes new zoning legislation which will come into effect in 2021 and which aims to ensure a ‘safe and healthy physical environment’ will help reduce the number of snack bars near schools.
‘We are researching how these new rules can be used to encourage a healthier supply of food,’ the alderman said. The city has also recently expanded the number of water fountains in the city to encourage children to ditch fizzy drinks.
The alderman has appealed to health minister Paul Blokhuis, urging him to get tougher on the sugar, salt and fat content in food. She also wants him to clamp down on the way unhealthy food is marketed at children.
Socio-economic status and cultural background also play a role in childhood obesity and the problem is largely confined to poorer parts of the city and among immigrant communities.
The 2012 campaign included advising schools to ban fruit juices, and unhealthy treats for at birthday celebrations and introduced a ban on fast food sponsorship of council events involving children.
Amsterdam already bans cannabis cafes, or coffeeshops, from being within 250 metres of a school.