This latest blog was written by our friends at the Queensland Association of School Tuckshops (QAST). QAST is a not-for-profit organisation, dedicated to the promotion and support of Queensland tuckshops and communities in their endeavours to help children make healthy food and drink choices for life. This blog shares the 360-degree benefits of volunteering in school canteens… or, as they like to call them in the sunshine state, school tuckshops.
Volunteers make an extraordinary impact. It is a vital ingredient for strong, connected and resilient communities. Throughout 2020, in Queensland alone, 75.7% of the adult population did some form of volunteering, equating to over 900 million hours of work and contributing $84B to the state economy
Why volunteer in a tuckshop?
Have you ever considered volunteering in your child’s school tuckshop? The benefits volunteers bring to the school community are vast, but it’s also a very fulfilling and rewarding experience for the volunteer.
Convenors are always looking for an extra pair of hands to help them deliver a high-quality food service. The old days of volunteers popping pies in the pie warmer are long gone. Most tuckshops prepare from scratch and aim to serve delicious, healthy food choices to their very important customers. In fact, policies in most states and territories require convenors to serve healthy food and drinks. The more hands there are, the easier and faster it is to prepare nutritious, tasty and economical meals and snacks that the kids will love.
What’s in it for you?
When you volunteer in a tuckshop you become part of a special community that is both unique and welcoming. Working in a team encourages new friendships and connections within the school environment, and you may even learn new skills and expertise.
Samford State School volunteer, Michelle, says:
“My favourite part of tuckshop is the friendships. It’s sitting and having a chat and coffee after morning tea…then getting straight back into it. At the end of the day, you get a wonderful feeling that you have achieved something, that you have contributed, and I am happily tired. If I was talking to a parent who was thinking about volunteering, I would say to them, ‘make time, give yourself the day and go. Go with an open mind and contribute to conversation.”
How much time is needed and what will you do?
Tuckshops offer a range of jobs to their volunteers. These can include food preparation (making sandwiches, chopping vegetables, popping popcorn), bagging orders and preparing class boxes for collection, serving the students, and much more. If you prefer a particular role, convenors will do their best to accommodate your preference.
Don’t have the time? Volunteering in the tuckshop doesn’t have to be a full day commitment. If you only have an hour or two to spare, convenors are very skilled at finding quick tasks to make the most of your availability. While tuckshops can be a fast-paced environment, there is always time for a chat, laugh and a cuppa.
One of the highlights many tuckshop volunteers mention is seeing the smile on their child’s face when they spot their parent or guardian volunteering in the tuckshop.
Convenors also recognise that not everyone has the time to physically volunteer in the tuckshop but may still like to contribute in some way. In fact, 28.5% of volunteering in Queensland is done at home or online. You can get involved by contributing home baked goods, donating pantry items, helping design marketing materials and coordinating the tuckshop’s Facebook page… to name just a few.
A program creating connections for culturally and linguistically diverse women
Women from refugee and migrant backgrounds are often socially isolated due to language and cultural differences. The QAST Connections through Cooking program connects these women to school tuckshops seeking volunteers. Participants can learn English at their own pace and pick up kitchen and food service skills, all while contributing to the school community.
The program builds confidence and helps participants develop relationships with staff and families from other cultures. Participating schools also build capacity to include a more culturally diverse volunteer workforce.
Get in touch
Keen to get started? Pop into your child’s tuckshop to have a chat with the convenor. And don’t forget tuckshop isn’t just for mums. Dads and grandparents are always welcome! They will be thrilled to see you.
For more information on QAST and what they can offer your school community visit www.qast.org.au.
 State of Volunteering in Queensland Report, 2021. Available from https://volunteeringqld.org.au/docs/2021/State-of-Volunteering-in-Queensland-2021-Full-Report.pdf