Health is wealth. With this slogan, the government wants to promote healthy Indian food and yoga among school children.
Indian schools present both sides of bad health --- malnutrition and obesity. Majority of children in poor parts of rural India were found to be malnourished in a study in 2009 whereas over 20% of children in private schools in urban India were obese. With obesity children have reported hypertension and diabetes.
The main cause for rising obesity among children in urban India has been attributed to high consumption of junk food. The issue was hotly debated in a Planning Commission sub-group on secondary education and a need to stipulate some guidelines on healthy lifestyle was felt.
The panel's committee in its report has suggested that school canteens should become "socially responsible outlets" for healthy food. The canteens should serve food items which are nutritious and meets the energy needs of a child, rather than demand driven junk food.
The recommendation comes after the health ministry supported a ban on junk food in schools canteens in a reply to a petition filed in Delhi high court.
Replacing junk food with healthy food could be an implementation issue in schools. So, the committee has suggested constituting of health and wellness clubs in schools which apart from creating infrastructure for sports and physical education could prescribe the daily menu for school canteens.
Along with healthy food, the committee wants the children to take up more physical activities including yoga, especially in urban areas, where most children are glued to television or computer games.
"Positive health message when reinforced from an early age will result in bringing up healthy adults," the report submitted to the government said and added that the concept of parent advocates should be introduced for their bigger participation in the process.
To start with, the committee said its recommendations can be implemented in the central government run Kendriya Vidalayas and Navodaya Vidalayas. An idea accepted by the HRD ministry.