Dozens of parents, children, educators and nutritionists held a vigil in
Jerusalem on Monday to protest against unhealthy lunches children between the
ages of three and nine are served everyday at after-school programs.
event was organized by members of “Meal 10,” a forum for parents advocating for
a healthy diet in schools.
They gathered outside the Education Ministry
and distributed unhealthy food from after-school programs to officials to
“illustrate to them the importance of the problem of nutrition in the education
“Our children today eat a different diet than we used to when we
were young,” Jerusalem City Council member and head of the Meal 10 movement
Rachel Azaria said.
“I remember going home for lunch, and eating a fresh
and nutritious meal that one of my parents cooked.
Nowadays both parents
work longer hours, and our kids eat their lunch at after-school programs,” she
Much of what children are served in those programs is “industrial
food” loaded with carbohydrates, processed meat and salt, Azaria said. They are
also given very few vegetables and fresh products, she said.
kids, the meal they eat at the after-school program is their main meal, and it
must be nutritious and healthy,” she continued.
“The Education Ministry
has an opportunity now to change the food our children eat, and help them
develop healthy eating habits.”
Azaria said her organization’s goal is
“to change the mindset of ministry officials, who today think their role is only
to make sure the food is cheap and tasty.”
Over the past week, Meal 10
gathered more than 1,200 signatures on a petition written to this end, which
will be presented to Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. The group’s members are
also active on Facebook, where they launched a page dedicated to the
“Parents try to teach a certain healthy routine to their kids at
home. It’s important that the authorities pitch in to this and for our efforts
to be coordinated,” nutritionist Hila Elyashar-Earon told The Jerusalem Post
“Research shows that an overweight child is likely to become an overweight
adult,” she continued.
“They can also suffer from weight-related diseases
which will follow them for the rest of their lives even if they undergo weight
These diseases, Elyashar- Earon said, include heart problems,
diabetes, high blood pressure and orthopedic issues. Beyond the physical harm,
the child can suffer from lifelong psychological and mental consequences such as
negative body image and a lack of self-confidence.
“I’d like to see more
fresh vegetables for example. And instead of chicken it would be good to serve
them some turkey, or beef, which can also help with their concentration,” she
The ministry said it employs food services operators for the
after-school programs using “a policy for healthy, cohesive menus which are in
accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
“In some cases, the
provider acted against our criteria, and when we find products which do not meet
our standards, they are taken out of the menu,” the ministry said.