9:33am Tuesday 2nd April 2013
By Emma Clayton
You only have to wander through a supermarket on a busy Saturday to see that we’re a nation facing an obesity crisis.
It’s not unusual to see family trollies piled high with industrial-sized bottles of pop, mammoth bags of crisps, pizzas as big as old dustbin lids, huge boxes of cheap lager and enough frozen chips to feed an army.
The thing is that nobody forces these families to buy this stuff. Nobody frog-marches them past the salad counter to the pizza aisle then stands over them, with a gun pointed in their flabby backs, until they’ve loaded half a dozen 18in cheese feasts into their trolley.
Nobody threatens to kidnap their chubby children unless they bulk-buy more “two-for-one” ready meals than their fridge could possibly cope with. And nobody force-feeds these families enormous bags of crisps and bucket-loads of fizzy pop while they’re sprawled across the sofa at home.
And presumably nobody forces people who use leisure centres to buy crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks from vending machines. Yet Bradford Council has come under fire for stocking such items in its venues.
In the Telegraph & Argus last week, Councillor Geoff Reid said the treats on sale in leisure centres show the authority’s “lack of joined-up thinking” on health matters.
He highlighted Eccleshill Pool, which has four vending machines in its foyer – dispensing chocolate, crisps, and fizzy, sugary still and ‘sports drinks’ – and said those wanting to get fit are being given mixed messages.
At a meeting of the full Council it was agreed that the matter would be looked into.
While I agree with Coun Reid’s calls for balance, in terms of a selection of healthy food as well as calorific snacks, I think it’s a bit patronising to imply that, just because there’s chocolate in the machine, people won’t be able to resist.
If you’re an adult using a leisure centre, presumably you have some intention of either getting fit or keeping fit. You have free will. You can decide for yourself whether to use a vending machine.
Of course, children use leisure centres too, as generations of children before them have done. For as long as I can remember, these places have sold crisps, chocolate bars and pop, and it’s never been an issue before.
Just because the Council is taking over responsibility for public health doesn’t mean it has to treat people like toddlers.
Too many people already expect their local authority to run their lives. We’d be doing them more of a favour if we tried to encourage them to stand on their own two feet, instead of protecting them from the evils of vending machines.
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