How to help your school promote healthy eating during the pandemic

As schools’ transition to a ‘new normal’, they may be dealing with new challenges and requirements to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

During this time, it’s more important than ever to ensure students, staff, and families eat well to support good mental and physical health.

Healthy eating also ensures that students get the right fuel for their concentration and performance, because research shows that there are strong links between food, mood and learning.

Nutrition Australia Vic Division’s Healthy Eating Advisory Service is here with four simple ways that you can help your school promote healthy eating during this tough time.

1. Develop a healthy eating policy

Offer to review your school’s current health and wellbeing policy/ies to identify where it could be improved. Take this opportunity to make sure that your school’s policy/ies cover state or territory requirements for providing healthy foods and drinks. This should include the foods and drinks supplied via the canteen, fundraising activities, and in the classroom.

2. Support the canteen to supply healthier options

Whether or not your school canteen is fully operational at the moment, there are many ways to work on having healthier foods and drinks in for the long term.

A good place to start is by offering to assess the canteen menu, to see if it complies with your state or territory canteen guidelines. Use this opportunity to recommend ways to intergrade healthier options, such making recipes healthier, or finding healthier packaged snacks and drinks. Remember that any improvement, no matter how small, is always better than no improvement at all.

3. Support healthy eating in the curriculum

Teachers are always looking for reputable information and resources to help inform the curriculum, and nutrition is no different.

Take a look at this collection of teaching resources. This information could be passed along to teachers to help them to develop students’ knowledge and skills around food and nutrition, in line with the Australian Health and Physical Education curriculum.

4. Support healthy eating at home

You can support your school’s community to eat well at home, by encouraging staff and families to buy, prepare and consume nutritious food and drinks. You could achieve this by offering to prepare information for the school newsletter, website and other communication channels, with tips on how to eat well, such as:

  • Start your day with a balanced breakfast that includes some wholegrain or high fibre grains, some dairy (some milk, yoghurt or cheese), and fruits or vegetables.
  • Pack a healthy lunchbox for students that includes at least one item from each food group, plus water.
  • If getting food via take away or delivery, look for options that contain vegetables, and which are lower in fat, sugar and salt such as stir-fries with lots of vegetables and lean protein.
  • Involve children and teenagers in preparing meals and snacks. Not only is it an important life skill, but it can also foster skills in other areas like maths, science, and reading.

For more tips and information on how to promote healthy eating at school during coronavirus, visit the Healthy Eating Advisory Service website.

And don’t forget to check out Parents’ Voice’s ChangeMakers webinar series for more practical advice on how to advocate for healthier food environments in schools.

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