The Maharashtra state government has imposed a ban on the sale of ‘High in Fat, Salt and Sugar’ (HFSS) food at school canteens across the state. With the rise of obesity cases among children, a measure such as this is crucial to curb the health issue and encourage kids to eat nutritious meals. The Government Resolution (GR) listed 12 categories of foods that cannot be sold in the school premises and it included items like potato chips, noodles, carbonated soft drinks, pizza, burger, cakes, biscuits, buns, pastries, etc. The GR said the Union Government had set up a Task Force under the chairmanship of Director, National Nutrition Institute, Hyderabad to promote consumption of healthy food.
An earlier report by WHO had drawn attention to the fact that childhood obesity has reached alarming rates globally and become an “exploding nightmare” in the developing world. Various India-based research studies and surveys have also highlighted that there are various social and environmental factors that are leading to this health issue. Schools particularly play a major role in the health and well-being of its students. And factors such as unhealthy snacks served at the canteen, lack of playgrounds, and unawareness about obesity are all contributing to making children obese.
The ill-effects of junk foods are not unknown, yet they are most readily available in school canteens, grocery stores, etc. The task force in its report said that junk food contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar and very little nutritional content, which then leads to obesity, dental diseases, diabetes and heart ailments in later life. Taking note of recommendations of the Task Force, the state government decided to impose a ban on junk food in school canteens, the GR said.
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The GR includes a list of 20 items that are allowed to be sold in school canteens, replacing the likes of pizzas, noodles and pastries. The GR also called for creating awareness among children about consuming nutritional food. Schools should counsel students on this, it said.
The Banned Foods
The broad list of 12 banned food categories covers fried food items like potato chips, sherbets, ice gola, carbonated soft drinks, non-carbonated soft drinks, rasgullas, gulab-jamuns, pedha, kalakand, noodles, pizza, burger, tikka, pani- puri, all kinds of toffees, chocolates and candies, jalebis, imartis, all kinds of sweets, cakes, biscuits, buns, pastries, jams and jellies.
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The Nutritious Alternatives
The food items that are allowed to be sold are rotis made of wheat, parathas, multi-grain rotis, rice, vegetable pulavs, rice with cereals and pulses, rice and black gram, halva made out of wheat with channa, sweet daliya, rice with rajma, idli-vada sambar, kheer, firni, milk and milk products like curd, lassi and buttermilk, vegetable sandwich, vegetable khichdi, coconut water, shikanji and jaljira.