City schools say no to junk food

They are enthused by FSSAI’s proposal to ban ads for junk foods near their premises

In order to promote safe and wholesome food among school children, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has recommended that advertisements of unhealthy food in and around school premises be banned. 

FSSAI CEO Pawan Kumar Agarwal has submitted the request to the health ministry for its approval. FDA officials will carry out a survey of all educational institutions in the country and send notices to the concerned department. 

But at a time when most children can’t do without junk food, how are schools ensuring that they choose the healthy path? Metrolife asked a few city schools on how they are encouraging children to stay junk food-free.  

Canadian International School (CIS), Yelahanka

The advantage of having a school in the outskirts of the city means that there won’t be too many vendors near the premises, so there are little to no advertisements for junk food. In this case, there aren’t any stores near the school for about 2 km. While the students have the option of bringing food from home, most of them prefer to have lunch from the school cafeteria. 

Shweta Sastri, managing director, says, “Healthy eating is a priority at CIS. The food we serve is nutritious, balanced and fresh. We avoid serving processed food and our menu reflects that. Soft drinks are not allowed on campus; students have fresh pressed juice in our cafeteria.” 

On a weekly basis, the menu shuffles between Indian, Mediterranean, continental and oriental. 

Greenwood High International School, Varthur

Everything from breakfast, lunch to snacks is provided in this school. The management ensures that probably the only version of junk food they provide is cookies, with fresh juice before lunch break.

Alyosius D’Mello, principal, says everything is prepared freshly at the canteen. “For breakfast, we provide South Indian and European dishes, including eggs that are freshly made. We also provide them with fresh juice with cookies and lunch has rice, dal, sambar, salad and cooked vegetables every day.”

The management says that they can’t control the children once they are out of the school premises but since the building is located in an isolated space, there aren’t any vendors nearby. “Once they are inside the campus, the students aren’t allowed to go outside. When their classes get done, they directly board the bus to go home,” he says.  

St Joseph’s Boys’ High School, Ashok Nagar

Principal Father Sunil Fernandes is happy with the government’s proposal. “We don’t allow any sort of fast food inside the campus; even packets of chips aren’t allowed here. We are very strict regarding this and abide by the government’s decision. In fact, we don’t even use plastic inside the campus. When guests come to the school for programmes, we serve water in glass bottles,” he says. 

Christ King Public School, Banasawadi

Once the school starts in the morning, no vendor is allowed inside the campus. Principal Prema Ravi says, “There is no use of the vendors sitting outside the campus either as the school is sealed between 8.30 am to 5.30 pm. We strictly don’t allow the students to go outside during this time.”

What should parents also do?
No matter how much you try, children will anyway consume some amount of junk. But how much of it is consumed can be monitored to restore a healthier lifestyle. Nutritionist Keertana Ramu says, “It’s hard to resist junk food as it’s convenient to have on the go. Companies also add more preservatives and make it tastier.”
She says that a drastic measure like this is much needed because everybody is used to consuming junk so often that we don’t realise that it’s harming the body. 
“It’s understandable that working parents may not have the time to pack lunch every single day, but whenever you can, send home food. Use healthier ingredients and get children used to only that. Practise it yourself at home so that it becomes a normal phenomenon,” she advises. 
 

What the guideline recommends
* Most common junk foods like ready-to-eat noodles, pizzas, burgers, fries and confectionery items should be restricted in schools and 50 meters nearby. Advertisement and promotion of such foods targeted at children are to be regulated through a framework.
* A canteen policy should be implemented, based on colour coding. Green category should constitute about 80 per cent of available foods. Red category of select most common junk foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar should not be sold or served in schools. Suggests healthy menu options should include fruit salad, fruits, paneer / vegetable cutlets, khandvi, poha, uthapam, upma, idlis and kathi rolls, low-fat milk shakes with seasonal fruits and no added sugar, fresh fruit juice and smoothies with fruits, fresh lime soda, almond milk and lassi.
 

Healthier snacks to opt for

  • Granola bars; fruits ; milkshakes or smoothies
  • Dried fruits; homemade dark chocolate
  • Homemade papads, sevia, muruku
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