Rahul Bhatt, 11, an Class 6 student of Thakur Vidya Mandir in Kandivli east, took a pledge on Thursday to avoid junk food and to play outdoors for longer duration, with the rest of his class.
The primary and middle school students of 24 schools across the city joined him on Thursday, giving their support to Hindustan Times' Mission Fitter Mumbai campaign.
A total of 131 schools will participate in the campaign over the next two weeks. As part of the initiative, students will keep a daily fitness diary detailing what they eat and their physical activity levels. In the diary, they will also enter answers to questions about their junk food intake, whether they eat fruits and vegetables, if they spend lesser time watching TV or playing video games and spend more time playing outdoors.
"It's the right time to sensitise children about nutrition, when they are between six and 10 years old," said Zulekha Khan, primary coordinator, Hiranandani Foundation School in Powai.
"As they're required to actually write down what they're eating, I hope it will create a consciousness in them about their habits."
The students and their parents will also participate in a contest, the Healthiest Tiffin Contest, which invites responses from parents about inventive, nutritious recipes for tiffins. The winner of the contest will get Rs. 20,000, and the best entries will be published
in Hindustan Times.
“This is a welcome, positive initiative to create awareness about health benefits in an era when most activities, for both children and adults, are sedentary in nature,” said Grace Mathias, principal, Queen Mary School in Grant Road. “Health does not take care of itself, and activities like this make us think again about what we are eating or doing.”
Taking the initiative forward, the Rustomjee Cambridge International School in Dahisar west has declared next week its ‘Health
and Nutrition Week’, where it will hold workshops, seminars and activities around being healthy and fit.
“We need to make it a lifestyle decision, a habit that is drilled into them at a young age,” said Vaishali Bane, a teacher at the school.
“Primary school is the age when these impressions are formed. With junk food so readily available for children, it’s absolutely essential.”
“The children eat so much junk food that their immunity drops,” said Revi Thilakan, principal, Thakur Vidya Mandir.
“We will continue the campaign from our side by making it compulsory for them to bring home-cooked meals for lunch and by routinely improvising the canteen menu to offer healthy alternatives for snacks,” added Thilakan.