Free water refills and food vouchers - how Sheffield plans to turn tide on rising obesity rates

A marketing campaign is planned to cut consumption of sugary drinks
A marketing campaign is planned to cut consumption of sugary drinks
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Junk food adverts could be banned and health food stores offered discounted rates in an attempt to reduce soaring obesity levels in Sheffield.

Food vouchers to help poorer families improve their diets and free water refills to cut the consumption of sugary drinks are among a raft of other measures being considered by Sheffield Council to turn the tide on swelling waistlines.

READ MORE: Campaign launched in secondary schools to cut high intake of sugary drinks in Sheffield
They are among the tactics outlined in a new draft food and wellbeing strategy, which is due to go before councillors at Wednesday's cabinet meeting.

Almost two thirds of adults and more than a third of 10-year-olds in Sheffield are overweight or obese, council figures show, and the city's children are more than twice as likely as the national average to have teeth removed.

Laraine Manley, the council's executive director of place, who wrote the draft strategy, says the proposals are designed to improve people's 'food choices' and reduce the prevalence of health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and tooth decay, which are linked to poor diet.

READ MORE: Child obesity hits highest ever level in Sheffield
"Poor diet and related obesity are two of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Current local trends for dietary indicators and obesity are worsening in many cases and inequalities are widening," she states in the document.

"Without action, the health of individuals will continue to suffer, health inequalities associated with obesity will remain and the economic and social costs will increase to unsustainable levels."

The proposals focus on improving the diets of people in the city's poorest neighbourhoods, who are more likely to eat unhealthy food, laden with calories but lacking in nutrition.

They are also targeted at helping children and young people to lead healthier lifestyles before they can develop long-term conditions.

Proposals include:

● Banning junk food adverts on council-owned sites near schools

● Free water refill scheme to cut plastic waste and reduce consumption of sugary drinks

● Incentives, potentially including reduced business rates, to attract healthier food retailers to areas where they are lacking

● Food vouchers or subsidies to help impoverished families afford healthier food

● 'Mass media' campaign to reduce sugar consumption

● Supporting the use of vacant council buildings as 'social supermarkets' and 'community eating spaces'

Overall spending on preventing and treating obesity would fall from £728,000 a year to £658,000 in 2019/20, under the proposals, as part of wider council budget cuts.

Specialist support for severely obese adults faces the chop, with more money to be spent on healthy eating advice, marketing and initiatives to help poorer residents improve their diet.