By Gatonye Gathura
Over three quarters of primary school pupils in Nairobi are eating junk food, sweetened beverages and most of the times in front of the TV without any supervision.
An in depth study of eating habits among school-children aged 8–11 years by Kenyatta University and The International Atomic Energy Agency found only nine per cent consumed fruits 4–7 times a week.
Almost all the children carried money to school and made own decision on foods to buy. Chips, candies, sausages and smokies, doughnuts and chocolate were the preferred snacks.
“Some of the soft sweetened drinks consumed by the study children were carbonated sweet drinks (sodas) and artificial juices such as Afia, Quencher and Minute Maid,” says the study published on 29th December in the journal BioMed Central.
The authors led by Dorcus Mbithe say although the pupils had some moderate knowledge about nutrition 65 per cent did not care what they ate.
“Only 35.1 per cent of them reported that they were concerned about the foods eaten, while 64.9 per cent of them reported that they did not care about what they ate since they were still young.”
On Monday the World Health Organisation (WHO) asked governments of member States to move fast and make sure that such foods and drinks are urgently removed from school environments.
A WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity launched its final report yesterday indicating the problem has reached alarming proportions in most parts of the world.
The global report makes several recommendations to stop obesity in children and adolescents. It estimates that 41 million children are obese globally. The report indicates five per cent of children in these age groups in Kenya like most African countries are obese.
Among recommendations made by the Commission is for the individual governments to put a punitive tax on all sweetened drinks and dense energy foods.
“Communities and governments should eliminate the provision or sale of unhealthy foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and energy dense, nutrient-poor foods, in the school environment.”
Settings where children and adolescents gather, such as schools and sports facilities or events, should be free of marketing of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.