Vada pav, samosa give way to sandwiches and fruit | Bombay News

Mumbai: The recess bell and the aroma of hot samosas and vada pav have gone hand in hand for generations of Mumbai students, but that may soon be a thing of the past as the city’s schools shift to more snacks healthy when they resume their physical activities. classes after two years of blended learning caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schools across Mumbai are replacing wafers and soft drinks with fruit and buttermilk in canteens and hiring nutritionists to develop healthy snack menus.

“We have given parents a menu card for the week, and we encourage them to send only these specific foods to their children’s lunch boxes,” said Swati Popat Vats, president of Podar Education Network. Podar Groups runs several schools across the country with Podar Jumbo Kids, a chain of preschools.

The menu includes sandwiches, fruits and cereals, dry snacks like poha or upma, among others.

“After the pandemic, parents are increasingly worried about their children’s immunity. Lethargy and obesity are directly related to food intake. So now more than ever, it’s important for schools to follow a healthy eating program for their students,” said Vats, who is also president of the Early Childhood Association for Primary Education and Research ( ECA-APER), .

At Campion School, management decided to implement a strict “no junk food” policy on campus. So much so that even on birthdays, the school insists that instead of cakes and chocolates, students should share fruit or stationery with their classmates.

“Instead of chocolates, we give stationery, including books or pens, to our classmates and this exercise is more fun because it’s almost like giving everyone presents,” said one. pupil of class 9 of the Campion school.

The healthy eating debate began nearly a decade ago with the directive from the Council of Indian Schools Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to their affiliated schools to stop selling junk food on campus. In 2019, rising cases of childhood obesity forced the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to issue regulations regarding the diet of school children.

While the FSSAI under the Eat Right India project has banned the sale of foods high in fat, sugar and salt in school canteens, household kitchens and within 50m of school premises, its implementation is still limited to a fraction of schools.

Principals said the pandemic has forced a change. Two years of offline learning and restrictions on outdoor activities have had a direct impact on children’s health, with many doctors reporting an increase in cases of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Dr Sweta Budyal, an endocrinologist working with Fortis Hospital, said that based on children who have visited him over the past few months, many have reported a six to eight kilo increase in weight after the pandemic. “Most children were housebound due to the lockdown and with schools also being conducted online, very little activity was happening on a daily basis. This has led to an increase in type 2 diabetes in adolescents,” she said.

Campion School in Cooperage banned its students from carrying packets of wafers, soft drinks, chocolates or fried foods to school for lunch for a few years. Today, school authorities have gone a step further to ensure that students indulge in healthy eating.

“Recently, we asked a nutritionist, who is also the parent of one of our students, to go through our school canteen menu to suggest changes so that children eat healthy food even when they are not at school. home,” said Principal Fr. Francis Swamy.

“The main objective is to ensure that the children eat. We can’t let students fuss over bland food because it’s healthy. So, a dietitian helps us form a menu that can be implemented and at the same time we also bring parents on board to understand how far the same can be implemented during the school year,” said Kavita Agarwal, principal of DG Khetan International School, Ill.

However, schools are unable to control the sale of junk food outside their premises. “The fact is that kids love vada pavs and samosas and even though schools stop selling them, they are very readily available outside. We need better parental control over these issues, and only when parents and school team up will this threat be stopped,” said the principal of a suburban school.

Clinical nutritionist Nupur Krishnan, whose 12-year-old son attends Campion School, said the first goal of a nutritionist is to ensure children are not forced to eat bland foods in the name of health .

“When you force kids not to eat food they love – pizza, burger or pasta and maggi, they tend to retaliate. Instead, schools should hire professionals to come up with a healthy menu which can include tasty food but with healthy ingredients,” said Krishnan, who is part of the Campion School canteen and food safety committee.

This committee not only reviews the menu, but also ensures that food safety protocols are maintained on campus, she added.


    Shreya Bhandary is a special correspondent covering higher education for the Hindustan Times, Mumbai. His job is to find flaws in the current education system and highlight the good and the bad in the institutes of higher learning in and around Mumbai.
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Norma A. Roth