UGC issues directions for all Colleges to stop serving Junk Food

In the present scenario, almost every child is taught by respective parents, doctors and schools about the negative effects of consuming junk food. However, it’s not always too late to gain the right knowledge and make things better, so, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued orders to all the colleges across the nation to stop serving junk food in their canteens as well as to implement measures to sensitise students against the ill effects of eating unhealthy food items. The circulars released by UGC are not binding, affiliated universities and colleges are expected to follow the prescribed rules.

In the letter addressed to varsities and colleges, UGC secretary Jaspal S Sandhu has asked the institutions to refrain from the practice of stocking and selling junk food items. The circular available on the official website of UGC also states that banning junk food in colleges will set new standards for health food and make the students live better, learn better and also reduce the obesity levels in young learners, thus preventing lifestyle diseases which have a direct link with excessive weight.

The colleges have been asked to host Orientation programmes for staff as well as students. Students too, have been asked to form clusters among themselves and counsel each other about proper nutrition, exercise as well as other healthy habits. For starters, colleges have been asked to display information on markers such as Body Mass Index (BMI), waist-hip ratio, etc. as it can help create awareness among students towards their health. BMI is the approximate measure of whether an individual is overweight or underweight, calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres.

However, the circular thus issued does not define in exact terms what is meant by ‘junk food’? But, the same circulars issued by other boards of education, including the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, refer to junk food as “items that are high on calories, but low on nutrients”.

In January 2016, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) directed all affiliated schools to take junk food off their canteen menu. Schools were also asked to inspect lunch boxes of students, create awareness about nutritious food and regularly monitor students’ health. The circular was released following a report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development addressing consumption of foods High in Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) and promotion of healthy snacks in schools.

On the other hand in May 2012, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations in association with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had directed all schools to ban junk food and carbonated drinks, calling them “rich in calories but deficient in vital nutrients”. All schools affiliated were asked to implement this ban at the earliest.

Create wellness clusters under the Students Welfare Department to counsel students about proper nutrition, proper exercise and healthy habits. These wellness clusters can also provide psychological support to the students to prevent and reduce the incidence of obesity in young students.

THE FACT:- Now when UGC has issued the orders, no doubt the colleges will definitely try their level best to abide by the same. But we should also not forget the students, if they won’t find the food in the college cafeteria; they will opt for smaller joints outside the college which will not even be clean. They won’t even for once think that the college canteen is serving the hygienic and clean food. It’s always said, “The more the restrictions, the higher the chances that we’ll do the exact opposite”. Unless students practice self-restraint, simply banning something will not help the cause.

While colleges have given a thumbs-up to the initiative, many thought banning junk food will not help much. For creating awareness about healthy eating is something all colleges can easily adopt, but will this help students understand the problem? Will they be abiding by it? These questions can leave many lips tight.

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