Call to encourage healthy eating in Hartlepool after sports and exercise projects hailed

Yopungsters who took part in Hartlepool Borough Council's free swims programme.
Yopungsters who took part in Hartlepool Borough Council's free swims programme.

Council bosses have praised sport and exercise work carried out in the area but warned they may have missed an opportunity in encouraging healthy eating.

Hartlepool Borough Council bosses gave an update on work carried out as part of its preventive and community based services programme.

Councillors praised the activities involved such as reading challenges, free swim programmes, delivering a home library service and securing sporting grants.

However calls were made for more work to be done to encourage healthy eating and teaching people cooking skills.

Coun Lesley Hamilton said: “The sport and the swimming programmes, it’s really wonderful.

“It’s really great, but I also think we’re missing a golden opportunity.

“Whether we like it or not in Hartlepool we have a generation of families who aren’t able to feed their children properly.

“All of these things are great but if you’re feeding your child kebab meat and chips everyday all of this stuff is defunct, it’s not going to work.

“We have an army of retired people, mothers and grandmothers, who can cook and have these fantastic life skills that we should be channeling, which will then enable families to budget properly.”

Gemma Ptak, assistant director of preventive and community based services, said a range of work is ongoing to address health issues in the area.

She said: “We look at lifestyle much more now, we’re not just targeting one part of lifestyle through sport and physical exercise, we really work with targeting demographics to address needs.

“One of the things we’re going to explore is that intergenerational opportunity and how there’s role models across generations.

“Community hubs offer a real opportunity to start to deliver that.

“We’re also working with public health on the obesity agenda so we’re very proactive in the recent work being done.”

Council bosses said some highlights from the last year included 1,222 children completing the summer reading challenge, 539 people receiving a home library service and more than 10,000 taking part in the summer free swim scheme.

More than 9,000 attended community swimming lessons and 16,000 attended school swimming lessons, and the scheme also helped secure an external Sport England families fund grant of £280,000 over four years.

However concerns were raised the services could be impacted by financial pressures in coming years.

This comes after council bosses were forced to use its reserves to report a balance budget this year and warned challenges will only continue.

Jill Harrison, director of adult and community services, said: “There are pressures in this service area and we are looking at different options in terms of how we maintain those services.

“There’s always been a commitment through this committee and the wider council about maintaining frontline services wherever we can.

“The council position as a whole is there are really significant challenges across all service areas.”

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service