IPH welcomes the major food report recently published by the British Medical Association (BMA) which highlights the need for comprehensive action to promote healthier diets among children and young people, and thus, reduce the substantial burden of diet-related ill health in the UK. It provides an overview of the population's dietary patterns, the adverse impact of a poor diet, and attitudes towards diet and health.
Following the report the BMA called for all Northern Ireland schoolchildren aged from four to seven to be entitled to free school meals.
They also called for school fruit and vegetable schemes, similar to those in England, to be implemented in Northern Ireland.
Dr Paul Darragh, from the BMA's board of science said poor diets were causing sickness and putting strain on the NHS.
He said school meals could help to establish healthier eating patterns.
"Doctors are increasingly concerned about the impact of poor diet on patient's health, which is not only a significant cause of ill health and premature death, but a considerable drain on NHS resources," Dr Darragh said.
"It is critical that healthy eating patterns are established when people are young and we believe that providing a healthy meal to children every day will help establish those patterns.
"Evidence suggests that universal provision of free school means is beneficial towards this."
The 'Food for thought' report sets out the measures needed to help promote healthier diets among children and young people.
Below is an overview of the recommendations made in the report.
1. Overall approach to diet-related ill health
2. Improving attitudes and knowledge about healthy dietary behaviour
3. Limiting unhealthy cues and the promotion of unhealthy of unhealthy food and drink products
4. Creating an environment that promotes healthy dietary behaviour
5. International cooperation on nutrition