The Japanese concept "shokuiku,"( which emphasises connection between food and education to children) is also making its presence felt in Mumbai schools.
The Free Press Journal found out that some schools are finding their own way through shokuiku.
Schools are doing their bit to introduce the concept of healthy food to very young children so that they grow up understanding and liking ‘correct’ food.
Bombay Scottish hold an event like "Vegetable Day," where teachers dress up as vegetable vendors and students use fake money to buy specific vegetables. “This makes children aware of healthy food choices in a fun and engaging way,” said Principal Sunita George, The Bombay Scottish School. “In the KG section, the school teachers actively participate during mealtime, and they even prohibit junk food on certain days to emphasise the importance of a nutritious diet,” she added. This approach extends to the students' homes, where parents are educated about the distinctions between healthy and unhealthy foods by their kids.
Meal Plans And Monitoring The BMI Of Kids
Principal Sunayana Awasthi, Orchid International School in Mulund says they have taken significant steps to ensure that their students understand the value of seasonal and nutritious foods. She said, “The school follows a systematic approach by offering specific seasonal foods on particular days, creating a rotation that includes apples, grapes, various oranges, and whole wheat bread.” Adding to that she explained, they have a strict policy against junk food in place, and the school encourages kids to bring fruits instead of cakes for birthday celebrations. The principal, along with teachers, engages students in meaningful discussions about fruits and vegetables during lunchtime.
Further, she said, “We have created Body Mass Index (BMI) monitoring and personalised food charts for children to contribute to a comprehensive approach to health. School not only educates students but also empowers parents with the knowledge and tools to promote a balanced diet at home.”
Seasoned fruits, whole wheat bread, and other nourishing are often consumed by the students as part of their food education programme. | Special Arrangement
Practising Mindfulness and Refraining from Categorising foods
While the differences between the schools are always there the approach towards a healthy eating situation might seem different. The Children's Academy in Malad doesn't believe in labelling food in the unhealthy and healthy category and believes in mindfulness. Yesha Mahesh, Pre-primary Academic Head says they focus on mindfulness and food awareness in their curriculum. “By teaching children to savour and appreciate their meals through activities that encourage mindfulness, they instil a deeper connection with food,” she said. The school takes it a step further by organising activities where students are involved in the entire process of preparing a meal, from collecting wheat grains to making rotis. This hands-on experience not only teaches children about the effort that goes into bringing food to their plates but also fosters an appreciation for food and discourages wastage.
“The school breaks gender stereotypes related to cooking by promoting the idea that everyone should be involved in the kitchen, regardless of gender,” says Yesha Mahesh. They believe is approach emphasises the importance of family involvement in cooking and healthy eating. To encourage healthy eating discussions, they share a weekly snack menu with parents. This approach allows children to make their snack choices freely on "your choice" day, leading to constructive discussions with teachers about their decisions.
Gradual approach to favored foods
Principal Rupal Desai from MPS Pratiksha Nagar School, Jogeshwari, outlines their mid-meal system, offering daily diverse khichadi meals. They use charts (PPT) to discuss nutritional benefits and health. “Kids have "bring your own choice" days with a fruit requirement, and we discourage chips.” Teachers eat with students, emphasizing healthy choices, and we enforce a no-cold-drinks policy, offering alternatives like lemon juice or coconut water.
MPS Pratiksha Nagar students have adopted a different approach wherein students are slowly encouraged to a healthy approach to food. |
It's important to note that we don't immediately restrict preschoolers from consuming their favourite junk foods. “For instance, if a child enjoys eating Maggi, we initially allow them to bring it in their lunch. However, over time, we work on helping them understand the importance of balanced nutrition and gradually reduce the frequency of Maggi consumption. Eventually, they stop bringing it as their peers and teachers are not consuming that particular food item.” During parent meetings, we provide a menu with 25-30 different dish options for parents to prepare for their children.
Schools emphasise the educational aspect of food and the establishment of a strong connection between children and their meals. But do these unconventional approaches yield the desired results? Could these innovative strategies mark a turning point in the quest for a healthier future for children?