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For our kids' sake, we must fix this 'fried chicken' culture

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Leon Mann loves fried chicken, but not every day

I LOVE chicken and chips; two piece, three wings, chips and a drink is my thing. But - I’m getting seriously vex' about the proliferation of these chicken shop establishments near our schools.

As a kid, I would count the days until Friday. Takeaway night. Fish ‘n’ chips, Chinese and Indian had nothing on chicken and chips for me. So when it was time for this munch in the Friday night rotation, I was buzzing.

When I got a bit older and had a couple of quid (literally) in my pocket as a teenager, theoretically I could have had chicken and chips every day of the week – but chose not to. I was too busy playing football, and a kickabout with a stomach full of fried food was no fun.

So, I have been left shocked, and quite frankly deeply concerned, about what I have been seeing on the doorsteps of pretty much every school I’ve been around recently at lunch break and ‘home time’.

These chicken shops are not just busy, they are bursting at the sides with school kids, not just on a Friday, or at lunchtime, but every day – at lunch and after school. Now, I’m no Jamie Oliver, and this is not an opinion piece suggesting school kids never eat chicken and chips, instead opting for a quinoa salad – I live in the real world! However, my blood boils at the prospect of my two daughters one day joining the chicken and chips queue more than once a week.

But - I get it. Chicken and chips has plenty going for it. It’s cheap. For £1.99 you can get a ‘hot’ meal. For price, there isn’t a fast food rival and during these difficult times, it’s no surprise to regularly see families sat in the shop together. It’s accessible to all. Providing a halal takeaway option is a master stroke. No longer are friendship groups split at binge o’clock.

And now, I’m told the chicken shop is not only a place to eat, but also a spot to socialise. In 2017, young people tell me the fried chicken shop has replaced the youth clubs of years gone by. This is
the place to meet.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, for starters, I think it’s time for a discussion about what dumping fried chicken into your stomach five times a week does to our young people. Nearly a third of all children aged between two and 15 in the UK are overweight or obese. And, we can’t solely rely on schools to educate on this.

The 'hanging out in the chicken and chips shop' culture also needs countering. We need to give our young people something to do.

I could write a lot more here, but I won’t (#WordCountProblems). Instead, I’ll leave you with a plea: There is a time and place for chicken and chips. Let’s encourage moderation and support our young people to live a healthier life.

Leon Mann is a journalist and broadcaster.

Give Leon a shout on twitter @ Leon_Mann with your thoughts. Is there a problem? If yes, what is your solution?

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