Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Any responsible nation must be concerned about the way the health of the children is affected by poor choices and forced buying of foods considered devoid of much nutrition and causing health problems later in life. The food services in the schools are often controlled by private caterers and their concern invariably is how to protect their margin rather than promoting health of their 'captive' customers. Many a time due to lax monitoring system and lack of regular studies on the impact of the program on the health status of school kids, policy makers remain in dark as to what is going on at the ground level. This is true of almost all countries where foods are made available in the schools as meals and snacks.

Credit is due to the US for coming to realize the implications of lack of realistic hard data regarding foods consumed in their schools by youngsters. The national concern is reflected by the proposal to enact a law that will force the government to commission a critical study of the present system. "It calls for an in-depth study of the nutritional value of foods and drinks marketed in middle and high schools, as well as the vehicles advertisers use to reach young consumers in our nation's schools. Previous studies have shown that some foods available in schools have minimal nutritional value, and are high in sugar, fat and sodium".

In a country like India, GOI is concerned only with earmarking funds for school meal program and its achievements year after year is measured in terms of ability to spend the budgeted amount, not the results. Increasing allocation for the program regularly is also a talking point though in any management system, future allocations are decided only after assessing the performance. It is left to NGOs and multilateral international agencies to bring into focus flaws in the program based on some limited local studies. A nation concerned about this issue must have a statutory authority to audit the program
technically and bring about changes to make it more effective and ensure that tax payer's money is not wasted.


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