Why I want a 'No Fry Zone' of no chip shops near schools
Obesity robs children of their health and vitality. One in four Irish children is overweight or obese. Pinning the blame solely on parents and abdicating all responsibility hasn't worked.
I want a ban on the building or the use of a premises as a chip shop within a 500m radius of schools.
Just to be clear, no one is trying to ban chips. I campaigned to remove sweets from checkouts, not for them to be banned entirely. But we need to discuss ideas, new approaches, new initiatives.
We need to at least consider 'No Fry Zones', regulation of junk food vending machines, high calorie alerts on food and drink and minimum periods of PE in schools per week.
Education and physical activity are key and parents obviously bear the lion's share of the responsibility. But society and the State have a role to play in ensuring parents and children are sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions.
Research backs up calls for 'No Fry Zones' around schools. A study in California found students with fast-food restaurants near their schools ate less fruit and veg, consumed more fizzy drinks and were more likely to be overweight or obese.
This is not a bandwagon issue for me. It is a cause I have supported for a long time due to my own struggles with obesity when I was younger.
It can be difficult to make the healthy choice. If an unhealthy option is the easiest one, children who are inclined to overeat will do so regularly, no matter how much their parents try to encourage otherwise.