An Oireachtas committee has called for a ban on vending machines which dispense unhealthy food and drinks in schools.

In a report on childhood obesity the Joint Committee on Education and Skills says no unhealthy food or drinks should be sold in schools.

It also recommends that the school building programme prioritise the provision of physical education facilities in schools that do not have them. 

The Department of Education is currently not granting any requests to build or upgrade sports halls in schools, citing cost and different priorities as a factor.

This is despite the fact that many schools across the country complain of inadequate PE facilities. 

The Joint Committee on Education and Skills has also called for fresh drinking water to be made freely available to students in all schools. 

It suggests a number of measures that should be "considered" by the Minister for Education and Government "where possible" to promote healthy lifestyles and combat obesity.

They include whether revenue generated from the sugar tax should be used for initiatives that promote a healthy weight and lifestyle; the provision of fixed playgrounds in primary schools, as well as gyms and other exercise facilities in other schools; and the protection of lands and green spaces for the use of schools.
Committee chair Fiona O’Loughlin said the report was focused on measures which could be taken and implemented at school level.

She said the State was spending approximately €1 billion annually treating children who were overweight or obese. 

Ms O'Loughlin said she hoped the committee's report would inform policy development in the area.