The Maharashtra State Education Department has issued a government resolution which instructs all schools to do away with junk food on their canteen menus and foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). The resolution also contains a list of items which are not to be sold across school canteens.
The Government decision comes almost one year after letters were issued by the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development to all states, asking them to do away with HFSS foods and also directing them to encourage children to consume more natural foods. Some of the banned food items include chips, wafers (fried products), pizzas, noodles, chocolates, candies, jellies, jams and non aerated and aerated beverages among others. Locally manufactured food items have also been banned.
Schools have been instructed to make healthy substitutes available for students including pulao, chapattis, rice and tamarind rice. The department is recommending phirni, kheer, fruits and lassi for dessert while coconut water has been recommended in place of aerated drinks. Schools should pick items based on their geographical locations and the eating habits prevalent in those areas. The resolution also states that HFSS foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and laziness along with causing tooth decay, heart diseases and diabetes.
According to the Education Secretary, Nand Kumar, the decision is binding for all schools including ICSE and CBSE schools and he also stated that the state wished to ensure that nutritious and healthy food was given to children. The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) had issued a similar circular last year, asking affiliated schools to do away with junk food from their canteen menus.