'Lunch Box' Survey Serves Up Some Food For Thought - The New Indian Express

'Lunch Box' Survey Serves Up Some Food For Thought

Published: 07th January 2014 07:21 AM

Last Updated: 07th January 2014 07:21 AM

It doesn't matter that we are in the era of fast food. Mothers in the city still wake up early to pack lunch for their school-going children, found a survey. Add to that, the helping hand of grandmothers too comes into the mix.

But more importantly, the study throws light on the mothers’ continued reliance on state-run noon meal centres to satisfy their children’s hunger.

The ‘Lunch Box’ survey was conducted by the Consumers Association of India (CAI) among 300 students in 25 institutions – nine corporation and 16 aided (state and central board) schools – during five working days after a request by Sydney University.

“The objective was to assess the students’ knowledge of safe food, gain an insight into the likes and dislikes and to stress on the need to have sufficient and balanced food for good health,” said Nirmala Desikan of CAI, presenting the findings at a function here on Monday.

“We chose 12 children from each school and appointed four coordinators to visit the schools,” she said. “The children were to bring their usual lunch box, which was checked by the coordinator. The students had to answer a questionnaire, describe exactly what the food is, whether he/she likes it or not and why.”

Well, a majority of mothers would feel happy about the feedback. The findings show that 87.7 per cent of lunch was prepared by mothers, with 7.3 per cent of the chore shared by grandmothers.  Almost all students were happy with the quantity of lunch. About 84.3 per cent of them liked the lunch sent from home, the survey says. The contents of the lunch boxes, however, provide some food for thought.

The survey show that 92 per cent of the food was vegetarian, with the popular preferences being idly, dosa, upma and puri and curd rice. The menu consisted mostly of cooked rice varieties - meaning less of wheat-based items.

Interestingly, a few students brought only cooked white rice from home and waited for the side dishes served at the noon meal centres. A few mothers had filled up the lunch boxes with only idly or dosa, expecting the sambar to be provided at the centres. Some preferred only the egg. Add the students who entirely availed their lunch served under the mid-day meal scheme – then it becomes clear that a sizeable section of society still relies on the welfare measure to a great extent.

On the flip side, the study found that hot food wasmostly packed in plastic containers, a health hazard that many parents appeared to be unaware of. Also missing from the lunch boxes were cut fruit, vegetables and side dishes.

Desikan said the students were given a booklet containing guidelines on the dos and don’ts of healthy eating. “The way forward is to make nutrition education an important component of education, to increase nutritional awareness and take steps to tackle both malnutrition and obesity,” she pointed out.

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