More than one in five Year Six pupils in Blackpool are now classed as obese – the highest figure for five years.
The number of children classed as obese when they enter the school system in Reception, has also risen to 12.2 per cent.
Latest statistics show 22 per cent of the town’s 10 and 11 -year-olds fall into the obese category – slightly more than the national average of 19.1 per cent.
A further 14.1 per cent of the 1,351 children measured are overweight at the same age.
The figures have been released as part of the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP), which measures the weight and height of children in reception class (aged four to five years) and year six (aged 10 to 11 years) to assess overweight children and obese levels within primary schools.
We have areas like Grange Park where there isn’t a supermarket where people can get good quality, healthy food
The data, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, can then be used at a national level to support local public health initiatives and inform the local planning and delivery of services for children.
The programme was set up to increase public and professional understanding of weight issues in children and be a vehicle for engaging with children and families about healthy lifestyles and weight issues. Blackpool’s health chief has said that improving the diet of the resort’s youngsters is partly down to a lack of available healthy food.
Director of public health Dr Arif Rajpura told a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee that one in four children were overweight by the time they started reception classes, and one in three were overweight by the time they leave primary school.
He warned not enough people were cooking healthy meals at home but instead were opting for food with high sugar and salt contents.
He said: “We have areas like Grange Park where there isn’t a supermarket where people can get good quality, healthy food.
“We need to look at how we can help these communities have access to these foods.
“The Fairness Commission is looking at having a community shop at Grange Park and we would like to have a demonstration area next to the shop to show people how to prepare recipes. We will also be working with schools on a programme in which healthy eating will be a key part.”
Blackpool Council’s Better Start initiative is aimed at providing a healthier start for children aged 0-3 with a specific focus on diet and nutrition.
A free school breakfast scheme aims to help children establish healthy eating habits while the council’s Healthy Weight Action Plan offers a range of activities to promote healthy eating and improve access to healthy food options.
Coun Eddie Collett, cabinet member for Public Health, said: “It is important that Blackpool children receive a balanced diet and adopt healthy eating habits at a young age to help them grow and develop, preventing long term health problems.
“These latest statistics are disappointing however I’m confident that the range of initiatives we have in place, to educate and support children to establish healthy behaviours around eating and physical activity, will help to tackle this issue.
“There isn’t a simple solution to this problem and families do need help to change their behaviours.
“We’re currently developing a campaign to promote cost effective home cooking with a particular focus on cooking and eating together as a family, which has so many benefits.”