ISLAMABAD    -   Students of public sector educational institutions of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) have complained about the poor quality of meals being provided in school and college canteens.

They said they did not have any other choice than to eat unhygienic foods at the canteens due to lack of proper check and balance.

Parents have demanded of action by the authorities concerned to improve the nutritional standard of the food supplied in the canteens at schools and colleges working under Federal Directorate of Education (FDE).

According to parents, the children prefer to eat from school canteens rather than homemade lunch. The biggest concern, however, is the quality of food they eat, they added.

Sabir Ali, father of a student said due to lack of proper monitoring, most school canteens serve unhealthy junk food, which attracts children due to its affordable price and eye-catching presentation.

These items should be strictly checked for their hygienic condition and nutritious value. Especially in the case of fried items, the oil used is usually of low quality and often not replaced for several days, Jahanzaib, father of another student told APP.

He said this ultimately affects the health of children who suffer from food poisoning, infections and diarrhoea etc.

Samina Khan, mother of a student Ayaz, urged the school authorities to take notice of this matter and ensure proper hygienic conditions are maintained.

Dr Hafiz Muhammad Shafiq, a medical specialist and cardiologist told APP that low quality food supplied in school canteens is the reason of a number of diseases.

Studies have also shown that strong bone formation occurs between the age of six to 18 and a healthy body required not fewer than 1,000mg of calcium per day.

In other words, a child who depends on milk for calcium should drink one litre of milk every day, he said.

Three students of the secondary level - Saad, Niaz and Naveed said, “Canteen managers think only about their profits and pay scant attention to students’ health.

The canteens are run by workers who have no concern with the hygiene or nutritious value.”

Qamar Zaman, an intermediate student, went a little further and said the high prices of meals were a matter of concern to most students.

He also noted that many students went to nearby cafes to eat their breakfast. This is because there is no canteen supplying nutritious meals for them and that the canteen did not serve freshly cooked food, he added.

“People have forgotten the old adage about a healthy mind in a healthy body and school canteens in government schools do not rise to supplying healthy food with high nutritional value,” said educationist Ahmad Ali.

He stressed that the Education Ministry should take steps to make school canteens supply nutritious food or turn over the canteens to specialised nutrition companies.

He said prices of meals should be affordable for all students, regardless of their financial backgrounds.

The canteens should also be equipped and furnished like international standard which attract students to eat breakfast there instead of going to nearby cafes, he added.