Opening of the kick-off event of the National Action Plan "IN FORM"

02.12.08 10:30 AM
Federal Minister Ilse Aigner

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Dear Colleague Ulla Schmidt,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

The first step is often the most difficult but as Aristotle once said, "The beginning is half of the whole". Anyone who has ever made a new resolution will know that. Get more exercise, lose weight, eat more healthily, stop smoking at last – every New Year that's always close to the top of the list. But to ensure that we don't just make resolutions but also stick to them, help is at hand: the Action Plan "IN FORM".

Our goal is an overall strategy for improved health and quality of life that draws together the activities and projects of our two Ministries. Instead of daily actionism, we look for continuity and sustainability. We place our hopes on a healthy diet and more physical activity.

Every step counts

Together our two Federal Ministries are launching "IN FORM" at today’s kick-off event. "Every step counts" is the slogan that we are launching today. We hope that as many people as possible will participate.

I would like to make one thing very clear. We do not wish to nor will we simply issue instructions. Schoolmasterly commands or top-down coercion do not correspond to our ideas of how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

We focus on information, awareness raising and motivation. Take the Los Angeles city council. It issued a fast food ban for the southern part of the city. For one year no new snack bars are allowed to open in that part of the city. That’s how they want to achieve a healthier diet for the population. I'm not sure whether that’s the right path. In Germany we focus more on voluntary cooperation and setting an example.

"IN FORM" aims to help people opt for improved health and quality of life. The idea of prevention moves centre stage. Day in, day out it is possible to give a positive impetus to one's own lifestyle.

Togetherness counts

Getting Germany fit is a task that is incumbent on each and every one of us to the same degree. We hope to secure the involvement of many different stakeholders. At the same time, the public sector plays a special model role and this is also defined as the first action area in the Action Plan.

The programme of our kick-off event is further confirmation. Representatives of the Länder and local communities are about to join me on the stage and this afternoon it will be the turn of stakeholders from the sciences, the business community and associations. They are all helping to put flesh on the National Action Plan "IN FORM". I would like to extend my sincere thanks for this important work to all those involved. After all this helps to more firmly anchor our actions and projects in the population at large. I would like to express my sincere thanks because the only way of achieving our goal is for us to work together. There are already good ideas at various spots around Germany that can serve as inspiration for others. You are actively encouraged to look around you and copy what you see.

The planned joint office "IN FORM" of our two Ministries expresses the fact that we are bundling activities and drawing them together under the roof of the Action Plan.

The offerings concerning an improved and healthier diet must be backed by incentives to get people moving. In kindergartens and schools physical education must be a permanent feature on the timetable. Above all, it shouldn’t be cancelled so frequently. Even minor changes to behaviour can make the daily lives of adults more active. In this presentation I would now like to focus on nutrition.
Each life situation counts
Today, a healthy, aware lifestyle is attracting more and more supporters. You are never too young or too old to opt for this. Health begins not least with food. Our eating habits play a key role. This is where our awareness-raising efforts must begin because in many cases knowledge about food and a healthy diet has been lost.

This is confirmed by the results of the National Food Consumption Study II which was carried out by the Max Rubner Institute on behalf of my Ministry. One example: 60 percent of Germans don't eat enough fruit. As people grow older they consume less milk and milk products which are important sources of calcium. A one-sided diet with too many sweets is above all a problem amongst adolescents.

My Ministry has already developed a package of measures aiming to encourage people to find out more about nutrition and to become more active themselves. Food competence is a life competence, too.

Please allow me to give you five examples of these measures:

  1. Good, nourishing food has to be learned. Many eating habits are retained throughout your life. That's why nutritional education and preventive work should begin primarily with children. One particularly successful activity is the "aid food licence", a joint project which is supported by my Ministry and the German Rural Women's Association. Third graders learn where food comes from and what tasty healthy dishes can be made from it. 79,500 children have obtained this food licence since the beginning of the project. I think this is a wonderful success. We, therefore, wish to step up the “aid food licence” in rural areas and in cities. In urban areas we will focus during the next school year on co-operation with the "Class 2000" – health promoters. We are currently working on the further development of a food licence for the fifth and sixth grades. Theoretical and practical nutritional education should be the leitmotif from kindergarten down to the final school-leaving certificate through all school levels and school types.
  2. Let me give you another example: "5 a Day" is the campaign under the aegis of my Ministry which aims to encourage children and adolescents to eat more fruit and vegetables. Five portions a day have a positive impact on health and performance. Two weeks ago in the European Union we agreed to launch a school fruit programme. Starting in the school year 2009/2010 90 million Euro in total will be made available for the distribution of fruit and vegetables to kindergarten and schools. With the right portion sizes and attractive presentation, I hope that children and adolescents will prefer to reach for an apple rather than a bar of chocolate.
  3. This brings me to my third point: A healthy diet is not only of key importance amongst children and adolescents but at every stage in life. Muscle mass and metabolism change as we grow older. Of course this has an impact on eating habits. Taking up the various life situations of older people through a balanced diet and more physical exercise is the motivation behind the action "Fit in later life".
  4. Adolescents in particular must also be encouraged to appreciate milk as a food. Thanks to the school milk programme, milk has once again become a part of daily life in many schools. That's why my Ministry supports the efforts of the Länder to extend this programme.
  5. Last example – eating is about more than just energy intake. It has a social and cultural dimension. This handed down eating culture is often neglected in our fast-paced lives. The first German taste days, which were staged in Lüneburg under the slogan "Tasty Germany", aim to remedy this situation. Next year, we also want to send out a message about taste, eating culture and conviviality with these days.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
One continuous growth market for the food industry is away-from-home consumption. Already today people in Germany spend approximately 18 billion Euro per year on meals in restaurants, canteens, schools, homes or care facilities. The status of the kitchen as the central hub of family life is dwindling. In New York residential buildings are going up without kitchens in response to this lifestyle.

On behalf of my Ministry the German Nutrition Society (DGE) is elaborating quality standards. Under the slogan "School + Food = Top Marks" the criteria for the introduction and implementation of wholesome meals have been drawn up which were also agreed with the Länder. "Job and Fit" describes the standards in company catering. The first canteen in Germany which was certified as having met the current standards of "Job and Fit" is the one in my Ministry in Bonn. We like to set a good example.

Before the end of the year the quality standards for children's day care facilities are to be published. They will be followed in 2009 by quality standards for senior citizen facilities. Special standards for sensitive areas like hospitals or rehabilitation centres are currently being drawn up.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
You can see we don't just want to make good resolutions but take concrete action. Today, we are taking the first step. "Be the change you wish to see in the world" is how Mahatma Gandhi put it. You are all part of the Action Plan "IN FORM". Let’s work together for more quality of life, a healthy diet and more physical activity!


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