May 9th, 2017
Addressing the issue of child obesity and related issues, the Maharashtra government has banned the sale of junk food in school canteens.
The state has told schools not to sell food ‘High in Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS)’ and has suggested healthy alternative which include – chapatis, rice, vegetables, pulses, rajma, wheat upma, khichdi, payasam, idli, sambar vada, coconut water, lemonade and jaljeera.
“HFSS food has very little vitamins and minerals…(Their consumption raises the chance of obesity) and other related diseases among children. The effects can be seen on a child’s academic performance,” said the government resolution issued by the school education department, as reported by The Times of India.
Not many state-affiliated schools have canteens and the education department’s government resolution (GR) banning junk food can be interpreted to extend to vendors who sell packaged or pre-cooked food on school campus during breaks.
School principals have been asked to ensure that the instructions are followed. Schools have also been directed to create awareness among students about healthy eating, with help from professionals in the locality and information on the internet.
The state government’s move has been welcomed by experts who believe that the human body is not designed to metabolise large quantities of artificial sugar which is easily converted into fat and can be linked to insulin resistance – a precursor to diabetes.
Experts wished that the move came earlier as “there was always the science to show the negative health effects of HFSS food on children.” Dr Jagmeet Madan, VP , Indian Dietetic Association, said that a need for this policy should have been realised two or three years ago.
Maharashtra government’s move was based on recommendations made by the Centre in 2014. The Union ministry of women and child development (MWCD) formed a committee under the director of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad which noted that HFSS (High in Fat, Salt and Sugar) food increased chances of obesity, diabetes, and dental and heart problems.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) was the first to implement the MWCD’s report. It issued directives to affiliated schools in January 2016. CBSE also suggested that a school canteen management committee (SCMC) should take charge of menu preparation. CBSE wanted 7-10 panel members, including teachers, parents, students and school canteen operators, to implement the guidelines.
The Logical Indian welcomes the move by the Maharashtra state government as junk food, mainly consumed by children, is high in fat, carbohydrates, and artificial sugar. The negative health effects linked to its consumption are obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many other chronic diseases. It is essential that children are provided with healthier food choices.