Despite the State and the Union governments’ regulations which dictate that only safe and healthy food should be available in school and within 50 metres of the school premises, junk food continues to be sold very close to school campuses in Bengaluru.
However, in view of the growing concerns about children’s health, along with self-imposed regulations about not bringing junk food to school, many managements have also introduced healthier alternatives, organised counselling sessions for both parents and students to promote healthy eating.
“Ever since our school started almost two decades ago, we have made it a rule that junk food is not allowed in school. We allow them to bring chips and some snacks like that only for the end-of-the-year class parties. We believe that education is not just about learning curriculum but also preparing children to be fit for life,” said Nooraine Fazal, co-founder, CEO and managing trustee, Inventure Academy.
Sunil Fernandes S.J., principal, St Joseph’s Boys High School, said that even in the school’s canteen, junk food is banned. “As a policy, we strictly follow that only healthy food should be consumed by children. However, sometimes they still try to bring it and we create awareness at those times. In the beginning of the academic year, we also organised a session from a doctor about dental hygiene and healthy food habits for students and parents too,” he said.
Apart from these rules, some schools have also banned children distributing chocolates or cakes for their birthdays and suggested alternatives like dry fruits bars or chikki.
Harshakumar N., chairman of Sadhana Public School, Bayyanapalya, said, “We have strictly banned distributing cakes and chocolates at the birthday celebration of students. Also, instead of distributing sweets in school programmes and ceremonies, we prefer to distribute groundnut chikki or jaggery based sweets to children.”
Despite these steps being taken, nutritionists and dieticians reported seeing many cases of parents coming with junk food consumption problem among children.
“This is becoming an epidemic now. As a larger measure, all schools should ensure that the outlets they have do not sell junk food and instead stock their canteens with fresh fruits, fruit juices, soups and sprouts, and other healthy snacks. In that age group, peer influence is more and if one child eats healthy food, the others would also like to try it,” said Hema Aravind, chief clinical nutritionist and dietician at M.S. Ramiah Memorial Hospital.
She added, “We also see a lot of cases of parents saying that if the child does not like what they cook, then they order food online themselves. Instead of this, the parents should make the children eat whatever is put on the table, or at least try a few bites. They should also be more innovative to include fruits, vegetables, and greens in the children’s diets. For instance, they can give them fruits in the form of milkshakes (without sugar) or chaats.”
Shashi Kumar D., general secretary of the Karnataka Associated Management of Private Schools (KAMS), said the police and the Health Department have failed to prevent the sale and usage of tobacco products on the premises of schools.
“How will they prevent the sale of junk food? Most elite private schools are selling junk food in canteens. Despite the Union government’s regulations, the DSEL has failed to monitor this,” he said.