Teach overweight children from poor backgrounds to 'grow a carrot', Labour's Emily Thornberry says

Shadow cabinet minister Emily Thornberry said it would help their knowledge of healthy food

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Indy Politics

Overweight children from disadvantaged backgrounds should be taught how to “grow a carrot” to help them learn about healthy eating, a senior Labour figure has suggested.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry argued that youngsters from struggling families are overweight because they learn bad eating habits.

It follows Labour plans to give all primary school pupils free meals at lunchtime, which she claimed would improve knowledge about what to eat.

Ms Thornberry told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I believe that education should be universal, that all children should go to state schools and part of that education should be having a lunch and part of that is being taught about healthy eating.

“If you look at poor children now, they are not thin, they are overweight. That is because of poor eating because of bad eating habits.

“Part of your education ought to be teaching you about, you know, how you can grow a carrot.”

Labour wants to pay for their £1bn policy to give free meals to all state school children by putting VAT on private school fees.

The party said research shows that offering universal access to free school meals improves pupils’ productivity and allows them to advance by around two months on average.

All state-educated pupils in the first three years of primary school already receive free meals under a scheme introduced by the Coalition Government.

But only older children from the poorest families qualify as they progress through the system.

Ms Thornberry said she was “a product of free school dinners myself”.

“You know I wouldn’t be the big strong girl I am today if it wasn't for free school dinners,” she joked, prompting Marr to reply: “I’m saying nothing. I'm saying nothing.”

The shadow cabinet minister said universal free school meals would also end the stigma around children not paying for lunch.

She added: “I had to queue up separately with different colour tickets when I got free school dinners, you know.

“So everybody in the school does it and you sit down as a community and it’s part of your education when it comes to teaching people about healthy eating.”