The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started the 'eat right food' campaign across the city, to ensure good food quality at school canteens and mid-day meal community kitchens. The main aim behind this campaign is to reduce excessive consumption of unhealthy food by school students.
Shashikant Kenkre, assistant food commissioner of FDA (Mumbai division) said they have planned to cover over 1,000 schools in Mumbai and around 169 community kitchens. “The campaign, with the tag line – 'freedom from junk food' – aims to improve the nutrition quality of food,” he said.
“In recent times, there has been a surge in lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure by eating unhealthy, junk food, due to which many children fall sick. But with this campaign, we will be able to spread a message regarding eating good quality food and we will also ensure all school canteens and community kitchens serve good food,” Kenkre said, adding that there are already 18 'eat right' campuses in Mumbai and the FDA is trying to expand the initiative further.
The FDA will share guidelines of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on promoting healthy food habits in schools. “Besides training and giving them guidelines about healthy food, we will also be conducting regular inspections. During these inspections, we usually check the quality of raw materials used, condition of the canteen or place where the food is cooked (in terms of hygiene), collect samples of cooked food for testing and the validity of licences,” Kennkre said.
According to health experts, junk foods like chips, burgers, pizza, chocolates and drinks, (including energy drinks) can affect children's health to a great extent. These foods affect the body in the form of increased calorie consumption and reduced calorie expenditure.
Speaking about the ill effects that junk food has on school students, Dr Asmita Mahajan, consultant neonatologist & pediatrician at SL Raheja Hospital (Mahim), said children who have obesity face a higher risk of developing various health problems than their peers who maintain a healthy weight that is appropriate for their height and age. Some of the severe disorders they are at risk of include diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
“Childhood obesity is a serious issue that should be tackled comprehensively and thoughtfully as it has long-term implications. With proper education and support, children can learn healthier ways to cope with their problems, prepare meals and stay active to keep obesity at bay. This support must come from adults who play pivotal roles in the lives of the children, including parents, grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers,” she said.