Government groups target healthy food for India’s school canteens

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Government groups target healthy food for India’s school canteens
India’s central government has proposed initial moves to phase out the sale of unhealthy food in school canteens.

After submitting a set of draft guidelines of the items to be covered by the ban to the Delhi High Court, the Centre is expected to begin the move with schools in the capital. Judges there are expected to look into the report over the coming week.

Moreover, government agencies are also looking at way to highlight the benefits of consuming  healthy food through television and social media. 

‘Reckless habits’

The problem of obesity among children is on the rise mainly due to reckless dietary habits. Based on a study conducted by the health ministry and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, we can say that junk food items such as burgers, pizzas, chips, fries, samosas, biscuits etc. sold rampantly in school and college canteens contain no vitamins or proteins and are instead high on salt, sugar and saturated fat​. 

The food available in and around schools thus, must be nutritionally balanced​,” the draft document reads.

Citing studies that indicate that reducing healthy food prices leads to a rise in their consumption, the guidelines added that school management and canteen committees should look at way to subsidise the prices of healthy food items and make sure they are prominently available around schools.

It also called for school canteens to come up with diversified diets with a judicious mix of a variety of food groups. “Cereals, millets and pulses must also included in food items available in canteens​,” it said.

Online activation

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has also advised schools to use social networking channels to warn against bad diets.

"With the advent of information technology, television, newspapers, and Internet and social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, schools can spread messages related to risks associated with the consumption of unhealthy food. The message can be spread by schools nationwide to sensitise parents and guardians​," the document said.

It also advised schools to post dedicated nutrition pages on their websites and to promote the formation of healthy eating clubs on campuses. 

The FSSAI has also called on the broadcasting ministry to loop in television channels and other mass media for highlighting healthy food habits.

"The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting regulates communication media, including the audio-visual, print and the Internet. Guidelines related to quality of food products advertised in Indian media should be urgently formulated. The principles can include norms, including size, content, nutrition and health benefits of the food marketed to children​," the guidelines said.

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