Healthy school snack bid presented

Health Minister Alois Stöger has presented an initiative aimed at tackling young Austrians’ unfavourable nutrition habits.

The Social Democrat (SPÖ) announced yesterday (Weds) school canteen managers will be provided with free brochures and further guidelines on how to provide a healthy and balanced range of snacks and drinks to kids.

Around one in 10 Austrian children aged between six and 15 are overweight, while a further eight per cent are obese. Many young Austrians eat products containing too much salt and sugar instead of opting for more fruit and vegetables, according to experts.

Stöger stressed yesterday that around one in three schoolchildren did not eat a breakfast. The minister emphasised the strong impact of eating habits developed during their time in primary and secondary school on their health as adults.

The health minister said he was convinced the new guidelines for canteen owners would help children to opt for healthier snacks at school. The federal student representation criticised the lack of precise restrictions on what canteens must offer. The organisation also expressed fears that the initiative could trigger price hikes.

SPÖ Education Minister Claudia Schmied said today she welcomed Stöger’s campaign. A spokeswoman for People’s Party (ÖVP) Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich made aware of an own initiative of the conservative politician’s ministry intended to convince kids of opting for healthy school snacks. The environment ministry official pointed out the campaign had already been launched in 2006.

The SPÖ and the ÖVP form a federal government coalition. The parliament’s three opposition parties – the Greens, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) – did not comment on Stöger’s healthy snack initiative today.

The presentation of the campaign comes only a few months after a renowned sports physician warned Austria was “turning into a sick society.”

Hans Holdhaus, who heads medical and sports consulting company ISMB Austria, explained health problems that used to occur at ages 60 to 80 may soon affect people at the age of just 30, 40 or 50.

“Physical activity is the key. Today’s society doesn’t have as much of a nutrition problem as it has a sport issue. Physical activity can compensate for many dietary errors,” Holdhaus said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said 57 per cent of Austrian men and 43 per cent of women living in the country were overweight.

One out of four residents of Vienna told research group Makam in a poll last December they wanted to shed a few kilograms this year.

Wiener schnitzel was identified as Austrians’ favoured dish in a survey among 26,000 internet users. With Cordon bleu, another hearty meal came second, gastronomy website Netkellner said in October 2010.