Wipe out junk food culture from schools

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently issued instructions to all its affiliated schools to do away with junk food from their canteens and  to make sure that no such food items are available around 200 m of the school premises.

Schools have also been asked to look over lunch boxes of students, create awareness about nutritious food and regularly monitor students’ health.

The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry had earlier published a study report on the adverse impact of consumption of food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) among children such as early onset of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and others.

Realising that many recommendations made in the report have a direct bearing on schools, the CBSE felt that such food should be banned in the school canteens.

There are laws in our country prohibiting the sale of tobacco, liquor and related products within 100 m radius of educational institutions because of the personal and public health challenges they raise. It is paradoxical that there are no laws to prevent the consumption of junk food that create the same level of damage.

The decision by the CBSE in this regard is really praiseworthy and there is need to implement such rules in all our educational institutions regardless of boards and levels of education.

A student attraction

Junk food is available in the premises of even reputed elite institutions that are being preferred by parents for their disciplinary rules, punctuality and value education. It has turned out to be a status symbol to keep them to attract cream of the crop. Parents pack junks in the tiffin boxes of their wards to save time and to placate them.

Recently, while visiting a stall which created awareness on junk foods and its carcinogenetic effects, the students enthusiastically explained about how taste makers, noodles, pizzas and burgers really work on our body to raise the risk of cancer.

Realising that all the above items are available in the eat-eries in their campus, I told them most of the students in that campus will contract cancer. Still they were not convinced about the need to get rid of them from their campus stalls despite their knowledge about the damages inflicted by such food.

Food has a direct impact on how one feels as well as on the overall health. Fast food is not essentially bad but is highly processed and contains large amounts of carbohydrates, sugar, unhealthy fats and sodium salts. It offers little or no nutritional value but is often high in calories.

When nutritious food in the diet is frequently replaced by fast food, it can lead to poor health and weight gain. High carbohydrate intake can lead to frequent spikes in blood sugar which is a contributing factor in insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.

Baked goods

A study published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition shows that eating commercial baked goods and fast food may be related to depression. The study noted that people who eat fast food are 51 per cent more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to no fast food.

Junk food diet could also affect brain’s synapses and the molecules related to memory and learning, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
Right food and right physical exercises are essential elements in moulding the personality of the younger generation. These two aspects are the keys to achieve higher and finer objectives. Good health is the first step to strive for perfection.

To overcome weakness and to acquire confidence, self-esteem and dignity, our youngsters should have quality health. It can provide access to many other wonderful realms. Weakness manifested in fragile spirit is the root cause of selfishness and disunity among the youth today.

Children are often unaware of the health consequences of their eating habits. Junk food may appear especially appetising and enticing to them.

However, regular consumption of fattening junk food can turn addictive for children and lead to complications like chronic illness, low self-esteem and even depression, as well as affecting how they perform in school and extracurricular activities.

Energy and focus are especially crucial for school-age children. Therefore, wiping out this hazardous food habit of theirs from our educational institutions is to be undertaken on a war-footing, as in the case of tobacco and drugs.

(The writer teaches at Christ University, Bengaluru)

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