The term “junk” in the junk food is a warning enough to avoid its intake at all costs. The high contents of sugar, salt and fat in such foods makes them one of the most unfit condiments for consumption. Then why is such a junk being sold in schools? A majority of canteens all across the country nowadays, are stacked with massive amounts of food items which are categorized as unhealthy by many food experts. These foods hold no actual nutritional value and can even be a cause of serious complications such as obesity in children. The contents of such foods are highly addictive and deterioration for the physical and internal health of a person. With growing concerns relating to the health of students in the country, need for a ban on selling of junk food in and around the school premises is being proposed by majority individuals.
Following are a few concerns surrounding the fact:-
Requirement of a balanced diet:- A well-balanced meal is one that provides the body with all the necessary nutrients that includes carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins. Junk food or unhealthy food such as fried stuff and sugary sweets carry minimal to zero nutritional contents. Such foods will only fill up the belly but provide no nourishment to the body. Since children are in the growing phases of their lives, their food intake needs to be more specifically monitored. A supplemented growth is ensured through the introduction of wholesome and nutritious meals, and so a more healthy diet should be included in the school campus.
High concentration of toxic substances in junk foods:- HFSS ( high in fat, salt and sugar) foods such as French fries, burgers, samosas, chips, noodles, pre-cooked and packaged food are very harmful if consumed daily. Today canteens all around India endorses such food items, and the students also get attracted by their colorful packaging or eye-catching advertisements. Even the advertising of such things should be discouraged within the school campuses.
Exploiting the gullibility of students:- We, as adults, are more aware of our health status. We are, therefore, able to comprehend the various advantages or disadvantages of consuming a specific type of food. Children, on the other hand, are, oblivious to such logistics and loves to overindulge in anything that pleases their taste buds. Also, false advertisements, glorifying the consumption of such condiments can be very misleading. The contents of these items are never healthy, and hence the children should be adequately educated about their ill effects and causes.
Quality of mess food provided in boarding schools:- Sometimes the poor quality of the mess food produced in the boarding school leads the students to rely more on junk food. Students tend to skip meals and satiate their hunger by indulging in unhealthy food provided by the school canteen and cafeterias. Therefore, special attention must be provided in setting up a well-balanced menu, consisting of high-quality good tasting food for the children of the residential schools. Food groups like milk, eggs, fish, chicken, low-fat dairy and paneer should be included in the school menu. Regular up-gradation of the list should be practised so that a monotonous and boring routine is not established. Canteens should also replace their unhealthy options with healthy snacks. Fruit chats, fresh fruit juices, salads, home-made food items can be included in lieu of the unhygienic and unhealthy fried and sugary food items.
FSSAI Intervention and the government ban
The centre has decided to ban the sale of all kinds of junk food in cafeterias and boarding schools, effective from December 2019. Food business operators are now prevented from advertising, giving out free samples or even endorsing at the sports meets in schools. A ban on setting up of and installations of the vending machines inside and within 50 meters of school campuses has also been introduced.
The FSSAI ( Food Safety and Standard Authority of India) has framed the food safety and standards to eliminate the consumption of unhealthy and junk food by the school children. Several guidelines have been fabricated by the FSSAI, that restrict the availability and advertising of the HFSS foodstuff (French fries, pizzas burgers, samosas etc..) in schools and the nearby areas. Even the manufacturers are now discouraged from advertising their products or providing sponsorship to the schools in any shape or form.
The unhealthy food ban has been the product of instructions from the courts and the studies conducted by several non-profit organizations.
In conclusion, such products are equally harmful to adults and children alike. With the growing popularity of junk foods, now manufacturers are targeting the children and specifically school-going children to sell their products. In such a dangerous scenario, students need to be especially supervised and provided the required protection.