Local authorities in the Northern Border Province are to closely monitor the amount of food sold in school canteens. Abdul Rahman Al-Harbi, director of the services division for the province’s Education Department, told Al-Eqtisadiah business daily the department has concluded deals with local and branch municipalities to work out a mechanism to closely monitor the quality and standard of meals supplied to school children in the region. Under the new mechanism, concerned officials will conduct inspections to monitor the quality of meals and drinks served in canteens. Al-Harbi said a recently held joint meeting of concerned officials had agreed on a set of proposals. “These included conducting an audit of commercial firms supplying meals to schools as well as the locations for the preparation of meals, ensuring education offices in Rafha, Turaif, Owaiqela and Rawdat Al-Habas coordinate with the branch municipalities, and providing local authorities with periodic reports about the meals being served at school canteens,” he said. Meanwhile, Faiz bin Rasheed Al-Anazi, a dietitian in Rafha, underscored the significance of serving more nutritious food to children at school canteens and cafeterias. “In view of the fact that children spend most of their time at schools, they must be safeguarded from the health complications resulting from consuming junk food and sugary beverages. Modern studies show that nearly half of the children go to school without having breakfast at home,” he said. He said children, whose school years are a crucial stage in their growth, needed to be served balanced meals. Al-Anazi noted that most school canteens sell food that are low nutrition, processed, and heavy in sugar, oil and fat such as potato chips, canned foods, carbonated drinks, cookies and chocolates. He said this contravened a ban on the sale of junk food and sugary beverages implemented by the Ministry of Education in March this year. “Most studies note that these meals create serious health complications and diet-related diseases in children, such as obesity, high blood pressure, tooth decay, anemia, allergies and tuberculosis,” he said. He urged the education department to develop a healthy diet culture among children by making available various dairy products and fruit juices instead of junk food and carbonated drinks at school canteens.