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Fiji Time: 11:23 PM on Thursday 28 August

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Junk in schools

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, January 28, 2013

IT is the second week of the school year and the focus from some corners is on what children consume.

While many children take their lunch from home, some may at times depend on their school canteens for it.

But some who do take lunch from home also often rely on their school canteens to buy other snacks for recess or even the lunch break.

On the opening of school last week, the Ministry of Health's National Food and Nutrition Centre emphasised on the need for proper breakfast and lunch for students.

It also highlighted on healthy snacks that could be prepared at home for children to take to school instead of buying and eating junk food.

Considering the health issue and the related costs, the Consumer Council of Fiji has urged parents and schools to monitor what children consume.

"Boarding school caterers and school canteens have a vital role in promoting healthy and nutritious food to students," said council chief executive officer Premila Kumar.

"They must follow the food and nutrition policy on canteen guidelines set for them, and school managements, teachers and parents should take the lead role in ensuring it is followed," Mrs Kumar said.

"The council believes that the NFNC's guidelines developed with the assistance of the Health Ministry are a good basis for ensuring that majority of food sold to children through school canteens is healthy and high nutrient food."

Mrs Kumar said the guidelines specifically recommend that certain things like chips, sweet biscuits, confectionery, cordials, soft drinks and ice blocks not be sold in school canteens.

She said the council's surveys in the past revealed that many school canteens continued to sell unhealthy food and snacks despite the school canteen guideline put in place by the Health Ministry.

"It's sad to see that many schools continue to sell and promote junk food to children," she said.

"There needs to be consistency with what is taught in the classrooms about healthy eating and nutrition and what's actually provided in the school canteens.

"However, there seems to be a gap between what children are taught in schools regarding balanced diet and what's sold in school canteens which come under the school administration."

Mrs Kumar said while schools do play an important role in inculcating dietary habits amongst growing children, parents had a greater responsibility, being the principal educators of their children.

"It's worth noting that children have two of their three meals at home and it's outside the school system that equal attention to the issue of child nutrition could be addressed.

"Parents should become more aware of what their children are eating and drinking in order to avoid health related problems and the consequent costs to parents and the nation," said Mrs Kumar.


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