The government’s policy on school canteens is facing issues in implementation owing to opposition from owners of canteens in schools in city areas, the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance Lanka, an advocacy group to the Ministry of Health, said.
The Ministry of Education recently issued a directive for all school canteens to standardize their food and beverage items sold in order to ensure proper quality and nutritional value.
The Sri Lanka Heart Association (SLHA), however, said that a rule was in force in schools outside city areas.
President of the SLHA, Dr. Rohan Gunawardena observed that canteen owners were operating on the basis of profit and were only concerned about rupees and cents.
The National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection (NMCRP) pointed out that the government circular should also include milk packets which contain higher quantities of sugar than soft drinks as items which should be removed from display and sale in school canteens.
Chairman of the NMCRP, Ranjith Withanage charged that at present school children were being sold by schools heads and their authorities to the canteens.
Rent must be lowered for canteen owners or the canteen location must be given free of charge to operators, he pointed out.
He added that while it was appropriate for canteen owner to earn an income, the provision of food for children should not be made a profit-making venture for the school authorities.
“Canteen owners in certain cases must pay Rs 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 or even Rs 4,000 to the school for rent and apart from this they must pay utility bills such as electricity and water. The canteen owners oppose this rule,” he said.
The Ministry has meanwhile instructed its officials to visit the schools to inspect the canteens and take necessary action against those who do not adhere to its directives.