Tower Hamlets Council announces SUGAR SMART commitment at Big Half

Mayor_Big Half

Organisations, schools, nurseries and local businesses are being encouraged to sign up to the SUGAR SMART campaign alongside the council to raise awareness of sugar consumption and its impact on health as part of a new initiative.

The council pledged its commitment at the Big Half marathon event on Sunday 4 March, announcing action towards reducing sugar and helping people live healthier lives. The route will pass through the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lewisham and Greenwich. More than 40 different community groups from Tower Hamlets and 1,100 residents took part, many of whom ran a half marathon for the first time.

SUGAR SMART falls in line with the initiatives of the Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food charter signed by the council in 2017 to transform the food environment and support residents to live healthier lives.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said:

“A balanced diet, being active and reducing our sugar intake makes all the difference to overall health and wellbeing. 

“Childhood obesity is a huge problem for us as nearly 27% of children in the borough are overweight or obese by the time they start secondary school.

“I am really pleased to be leading the charge on SUGAR SMART and hope other local organisations, schools and community groups will follow our lead and help take small steps towards making big changes.”

The council pledges to:

  • Review council-run cafes and canteens and ensure they meet ‘gold standard’ of the local Food for Health Award Scheme
  • Continue supporting businesses and organisations to improve their food offer and help promote them
  • Ensure that the majority of food and drink provided at public events organised by the council are healthy choices
  • Provide clearer information about the sugar content of food and drink
  • Raise public awareness about consuming too much sugar and provide more information about healthier options
  • Provide more information about how to get more physically active
  • Review the school meal menus offered by the council’s contract services 

Consuming too much sugar and too many foods and drinks high in sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It is also linked to tooth decay.

Children in Tower Hamlets have high levels of excess weight (overweight or obesity). Among 4-5 year olds 23.5% have excess weight (of whom 12% are obese), and among 10-11 year olds 42.2% have excess weight (of whom 26.5% are obese). Both these are above the average for London and England although the levels of obesity among 4-5 year olds in Tower Hamlets are falling gradually.

Levels of tooth decay are also high: about a third of children aged five in Tower hamlets have tooth decay compared with about a quarter of five-year-olds in England.

But Tower Hamlets schools are amongst some of the most active. They are top performing for the Daily Mile with more schools taking part than any other London borough. 

Allen Gardens nursery, St Saviour’s Primary and Swanlea Sceondary School have signed up to SUGAR SMART, announcing their commitment around healthier choices.

Swanlea Headteacher, Brenda Landers said: “Swanlea School is committed to promoting healthy eating within our school community. We make sure our students have access to healthy foods during break and lunchtimes and educate them in the benefits of eating and living healthier lives during PSHEE and PE lessons.

“As an accredited Healthy School, we firmly believe that educating our children to live and eat healthy will not only be beneficial to them physically but mentally as well.”

St Saviour’s Headteacher Fanoula Smith said: “It is important our children and young people have the knowledge needed to make sensible choices. We are very pleased to be part of this initiative.

“We are a water only school, we hold lunch club cookery sessions for KS2 children and will be working on other initiatives with the Healthy Lives team.”

Councillor Denise Jones, Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “We know that there is no single solution to tackle obesity but the SUGAR SMART campaign is a great way for all of us to do our part in helping residents make healthier choices.

“I would encourage everyone to pledge their contribution to the initiative and help raise awareness around the risks of consuming too much sugar.”                           

Any organisation can pledge to become SUGAR SMART – from councils and schools to restaurants, hospitals and independent companies. Individuals interested in supporting their local campaigns can also join the SUGAR SMART newsletter or sign up as a local volunteer via the website.

SUGAR SMART is led by the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and food charity Sustain. It is currently the feature campaign of the UK Sustainable Food Cities Network.

Jamie Oliver said: “It’s brilliant to have SUGAR SMART Tower Hamlets join the growing national network of SUGAR SMART cities, boroughs and counties. They’ll be joining us in raising awareness about the long-term damage too much sugar can have on our health, and empowering us all to reduce it in our diets. 

“We're facing a growing obesity crisis where one in three children are leaving primary school either overweight or obese, seriously increasing their chances of developing diet-related diseases, like type-2 diabetes, earlier in adult life. Eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise will help us all lead healthier and happier lives.”

To find out more the campaign visit

People are also invited to fill in the SUGAR SMART survey where they can be entered into a prize draw to win a Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients cook book.

Posted on Sunday 4th March 2018