Anger as children’s healthy eating bus scheme has funds axed

The Cooking Bus travelled around Scotland, giving tips on food preparation and healthy eating. Picture: Rodger Price
The Cooking Bus travelled around Scotland, giving tips on food preparation and healthy eating. Picture: Rodger Price
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Campaigners have hit out at plans to close a healthy ­eating bus scheme after the Scottish Government withdrew its funding.

The Healthier Scotland Cooking Bus has been visiting schools and communities all over Scotland since 2008 to promote healthy eating as part of a project to tackle rising obesity levels.

The specially modified articulated lorry contains a purpose-built kitchen with space on board for 16 people to pick up tips on preparing food, as well as supplying follow-up support and equipment.

But despite its popularity, ministers decided to stop funding the service as of 1 April and staff have been given a month’s notice of the closure.

The bus made its last excursion on Thursday to Law Primary School, in North Berwick, East Lothian.

It comes after warnings from public health leaders that efforts to tackle Scotland’s obesity problem have failed over past six years, as 65 per cent of adults and more than 30 per cent of children are obese and overweight.

Christine Emmett, a teacher at St Elizabeth’s Primary School in Hamilton, said she had never seen anything like the buzz created among pupils when it visited in January.

She said: “I thought it was absolutely fantastic. The buzz in the school and the community was absolutely incredible after it came to us.

“The children spoke about nothing but food for the whole four days it was here.

“With the obesity levels so high, and sugar tax, it’s important to get them thinking about these things. I think it’s really sad it’s closing and so many schools didn’t get the chance to benefit from it.”

St Elizabeth’s is now hoping to set up a full scullery to allow children to learn more about healthy eating, inspired by the bus’s visit.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “I think it is absolutely ridiculous. If something like this is being seen to work, then cutting its funding is unbelievably short-sighted.

“Teaching children about food and healthy eating at a young age is the only way we will be able to reduce the reliance on fatty and processed foods that we see so often.

“This kind of programme is so desperately needed and should be being rolled out more widely rather than cut.”

Earlier this month food secretary Richard Lochhead announced £876,000 of funding for food-related school projects over the next year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson confirmed the decision had been taken to stop funding the Cooking Bus from 31 March.