The Wakeup Call for Parents, Schools and Government
As kids, and even now, we are quite attracted to junk food. Those snack stalls within the school premises and those outside the school gate always were our water cooler times where we used to munch on the junks and chat for hours. We all know how bad junk food is to our health, and especially of our kids, we still try to ignore the fact that regular intake of junk food leads to long-term health problems like obesity, diabetes and chronic illness accompanied by emotional and self-esteem problems and poor academics.
While several countries have regulated their school lunches to ensure healthy diet/meal to their students, India still is taking baby steps towards this. According to the stats by Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, nearly 5-8.8 percent of school children are obese in India. It also predicted that if this rates increase at this pace. 27 million Indian children will be obese by 2030. It’s an alarming figure that we might be approaching if things aren’t taken control of now.
Like I mentioned, India still lacks concrete steps to stop the issue from becoming mammoth. It was only in November 2019 that FSSAI banned junk food and their advertisement in school canteens and within 50 meters of school campus. However, the move haven’t materialized yet, which might be due to the pandemic that resulted in moving the schools online and a complete shutdown of on-premise classes. But as the central & state governments and the schools are gearing up to reopen with full-fledged capacity like earlier, FSSAI is back into action. It is in the process of issuing regulations to stop the sale of junk food in and around schools.
A government survey found that 88.2 percent of youngsters who attended schools or colleges in 2017-18 reported availability of foods high in sugar, fat and salt in their school and college canteens. Hence FSSAI in 2019 had issued a draft regulation prohibiting the sale of ready-to-eat packaged food high in fat, sugar and salt in and around schools, especially in hostel kitchens and canteens.
This could be tough on kids, parents and schools equally, but it is the only measure to ensure our kids learn eating healthy since and early age and we as parents encourage them to attain it by ensuring foods even at home fit into these boxes. If we want the country to be healthy, the onus lies on every citizen, equally. We cannot shift the blame on the junks available at school and college canteens. Why? Because we give them the pocket money to buy and consume those junks. While leading kids to learn making healthier choices, banning junk will solve the obesity problem and teenage depression. And will also ensure that our kids move from false nutritional promises to real nutrition.
Remember that promoting junk in the name of nutrition is just an ad away. A lot of companies make false promises through advertisement and portray their products as being healthy and nutritious, when in fact they are nowhere close to living up to those claims. Whether fried or baked, chips are loaded with salt, sugar and several preservatives. Even fruit juices aren’t spared. Hence first we as parents need to make healthy decision and then teach our kids to do so.
The pandemic was a perfect time for us to do so. While most of us tried our hands to cook delicious snacks at home, some of us have also invested time in ensuring that we teach our kids to pick only the healthy food habits. Such steps will go a long way in ensuring not just a healthy kid but also a healthy society and a vigorous country that has intelligent brains to perform all the good work for the benefit of the society.
Even schools should teach kids from early on to pick only healthy things, whether food or behavior. It indeed defines what a school stands for! Getting a nutrition specialist to craft the school canteen menu, and to teach kids to have only nutritional intake should be among the prime functionaries of any school. Those schools that doesn’t have such scope should maintain strict guidelines for parents to follow when packing their kid’s lunch box.
The negative impact of junk foods on kids are alarming and the above mentioned numbers are prove to the fact that the government need to move faster and schools cannot wait till they are force by some laws and regulations by the government to ban junk foods from their campus. Small steps go miles. Let’s start early so that we do not have to repent when the loss is already done.
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