Ban on Junk Food in School Canteens. Better Late Than...
Seema Chandra , Food Editor, NDTV | Updated: August 31, 2012 15:17 IST
If you've visited any of the schools recently, it won't take long for you to notice how many kids look overfed and bulky. While one cannot blame the schools alone for the expanding girth, most of our kids do eat lunch in school, and to that extent, what they serve adds substantially to their tummies, literally!
Now the Health ministry says it's going to ask the High Court to ban schools from serving junk food in canteens, as well as the sale of unhealthy food near schools. There's no doubt, if this law comes through it will only benefit the kids. Surely by now there have been ample studies that show the corelation between kids eating junk food and obesity. Only these studies don't seem to be under the radar of what they teach in school. But the question that leaves me perplexed is why did these schools allow, in the first place, junk food to be sold. What was their motive? Surely, it cannot be lack of choice. In a country like ours where you are spoilt for choice when it comes to food, surely burgers and french fries can be given a rest.
Which brings me to the conclusion that the schools were primarily interested in ensuring that the sale of their canteen food was high. After all, most kids, given a choice, will opt for a burger over an idli. So profit takes precedence over health.
Let's for a moment think that the schools want to that extra mile to provide healthy alternative foods for kids. In that case, the costs of running the canteen would go up. To start with they would need to purchase better quality ingredients. To add to that, they would need to invest in buying equipment to preserve the food. We all know that the shelf life of anything that is deep fried or has preservatives, will be much longer. The samosa will stay for hours without refrigeration while the bhel puri needs to made fresh. The bread pakora or mufiin is so much easier to serve after hours, than a green sandwhich.That's enough of analysing the situation, what's the solution?
The solution lies in first identifying a list of snacks and drinks that are not harmful or high in calories. And this includes sweetened fruit juices in colorful tetra packs. Or frozen desserts filled with vegetable oil that masquerade as ice creams. After they come up with a list, the schools need to find caterers who would be capable of mass producing these, and that too at a reasonable cost.
Then the school needs to turn to the parents, and encourage them to prod their kids. I remember being called to a school to talk about the evils of junk food. Going by my experience, I can tell you, if we are willing to teach them what's healthy, they are willing to not just listen, but learn.
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