During November at 543 Dental Centre we’ve been helping to promote National School Meals Week (NSMW), a really important national campaign to enable as many children as possible to enjoy hot, nutritious school meals to fuel healthy minds and healthy mouths.

The issue of free school meals has hit the headlines over recent months, centring around a high-profile campaign by England and Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, to help combat child food poverty in the UK.

The striker’s petition for pupils in disadvantaged families to have free school meals during school holidays attracted over one million signatures. As a result the government has now set up the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support families over the Christmas season, while the Holiday Activities and Food Programme will be extended to cover Easter, summer and Christmas breaks throughout 2021.

Raising awareness

NSMW has been running for almost 30 years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic the scheme has had particular significance this year. Some children are continuing to be away from school due to isolation periods and, following many months away from education in the spring and summer, many school caterers are still being asked to serve packed lunches in the classroom.

NSMW aims to raise awareness of the role that a hot school meal plays in helping children achieve whilst at school. Schools play a pivotal role in both promoting healthy eating habits to children and ensuring school food provides healthy balanced and nutritious meals, with the appropriate balance of energy and nutrients pupils need.

Maintaining a healthy mouth

The food and drink every child consumes also has an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth. A balanced diet, and especially the avoidance of sugary snacks and drinks, not only helps teeth and gums to grow properly, but also decreases the risk of tooth decay and childhood obesity.

If you’re a parent or carer it’s important to consider how the food and drinks you give your child can affect their teeth. It’s not just what they eat and drink but when they eat and drink it. Sugar is usually the biggest culprit and the more frequently your child’s teeth are exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities.

Watch our new video

At 543 Dental Centre we have produced a new information video with Becky, our oral health educator, all about decay prevention through diet for children. In this short video she explains the damage that can be caused by eating too much sugar and gives some practical tips on how to cut down to just 4 ‘sugar attacks’ per day, with suggestions for healthy alternatives to snacking on sweets and sugary drinks.

You can also find out more about the free ‘Sugar Smart’ and Food Scanner app from Public Health England that works by scanning barcodes as you shop to reveal the total sugar cubes or grams in popular foods and drinks.

Make a difference

It’s never too early for children to learn the importance of good oral hygiene and a healthy diet, including twice daily tooth brushing and regular dental visits. Following a diet that’s rich in vitamins, minerals, fresh fruit and vegetables and avoiding sugar as much as possible will give children the best chance of preventing oral health problems later on in life.

If you want to learn more about being ‘sugar smart’ with advice, tips and recipes to help you to start to cut back on sugar in your family’s diet visit https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/sugar

To watch our video on decay prevention through diet for children click here.