'Massive cheeseburger' advert at Luton train station undermines council's healthy eating campaign, meeting told

Spreading a healthy eating message in Luton is being undermined by the likes of a "massive cheeseburger" advert at the town’s railway station, a meeting heard.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 7:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 7:31 pm

The billboard promoting a takeaway food chain came to light during a presentation of the council’s child healthy weight strategy to its health and wellbeing board.

“The picture for us in Luton is that we have a very high rate of childhood obesity,” said the council’s service director for healthy lives, Lucy Hubber.

“What we see certainly by year six, but increasingly in reception, is that our children have very high rates of obesity,” she said.

Luton Train Station

“Obese children suffer from health-related issues both physical and emotional, but then go on to be adults with those problems.

“There’s a shift in the way our population considers food, the move towards chicken and chips, which is the Luton example.

“We don’t have treats any more. Children are eating those things all the time.

“We’ve got 2,000 children living in temporary accommodation, that means we’ve got 2,000 children not living with good kitchen facilities, so all of those things are highly complex.”

The meeting was told another poverty issue is parents working multiple jobs, who are often unable to cook their children meals at home or ensure they are eating a healthy breakfast.

Ms Hubber stated: “We can’t just keep on doing what we have done, so we'd like to do things in quite a different way.

“Our suggestion ... that the borough council doesn’t allow the advertising of junk food on its premises.”

This is already being done at Southwark in London, the board was told.

“If you drive or walk around Luton there are just billboards everywhere,” Ms Hubber explained.

“I was looking out towards the train station today. There is a massive cheeseburger looking back at me on the hoardings. It must be 15 feet big this cheeseburger and that’s what we see as the main marker of our town.

“We would have to consider the balance between the economic premise of the advertising revenue.

“I think the benefits would probably outweigh that in the long-term.”

The council's strategy aims to build physical activity into everyday work, and get children and families engaged, said the service director.

“We’re suggesting as targeted work we continue with a highly focused child obesity task force looking at Dallow, Farley and Leagrave, three very different populations.”

This includes providing a health plan for children in temporary accommodation. The board supported the child healthy weight strategy and is due to receive a further update in July.