Tuesday, May 9, 2017

State education department bans junk food in school canteens


PUNE: Junk food items like chips, burger, pizza and noodles will no longer be seen in school canteens.

The state education department has decided to ban the sale of food items considered 'high in fat, salt and sugar' (HFSS) in school canteens with immediate effect, after a central government committee found that consumption of such items leads to obesity and other illnesses among children.
A circular instructing school administrations to make sure that HFSS food items are removed from canteens and replaced by nutritious food items was issued on Monday.

Apart from the items recommended by the department, schools have been told to incorporate items that are locally grown and conducive to the climate and geography of the place.

"HFSS food has less nutrients and more salt, sugar and flour which results in obesity and other illnesses which affect the academic efficiency of students. Hence, we are prohibiting the storage and sale of junk food within the school canteen and the school principal and management needs to implement this. Instead of HFSS food, nutritious food needs to be given to students... To make students aware of the nutritious value of food items, local nutritionists and internet should be used by the school," the circular said.

Pallavi Naik, principal of Dr Kalmadi Shamrao High School, said, "This is a good move that will help students. When we have food-related discussions in class, students say they love burgers and pizzas. Deep fried stuff and chips are also a big draw. Ordering food from outside has become easier and cafes are opening in every nook and corner. Children are indulging in junk food and coffee at a very young age, which is bad for them."

Rajni B, a parent, said the government's move will help students eat food given in their tiffins. "Children tend to buy and eat unhealthy stuff instead of home-cooked food. Even if we refuse to give them money, there can always be some children buying junk food which leads to peer pressure. With the state government telling canteens to prohibit junk food and keep only nutritious food, children will have to eat homemade food given in their tiffins. My only concern is how strictly schools will follow it and how strongly it will be enforced by the education department."

Rajiv Yeravadekar, dean, faculty of health and biomedical sciences, Symbiosis International University, and a subject expert, said, "The term junk food is not defined well. If burgers, French fries and chocolates are considered junk food, what about vadas or sabudana vadas? Taste and peer pressure also need to be considered. If one student chooses healthy food, ten others will choose junk."

More than a ban, health promotion and giving alternative healthy food options is the way to go, Yeravdekar said. "Students will not want healthy food every day. As adults, we too eat junk food. We need to promote healthy food and give students innovative options like sprouts, chaats or vegetable sandwiches. A calorie count of all junk food items will tell them how much exercise they need to burn those calories. We need to come up with innovative programmes so that students choose healthy food and lifestyle over junk food and inactivity," he added.


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