As children spend more time in school than anywhere else outside of home, it is important that schools provide healthy food and drinks and restrict unhealthy options to encourage healthy eating.
School nutrition guidelines, for canteens and other food settings within schools, are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents and The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. A national system for nutrition in schools was launched in July 2011 called the National Healthy School Canteens Project.
However, school nutrition guidelines vary from state to state, click on the button below to see guidelines in your state.
Most states have adopted a traffic light classification system in which foods and drinks are categorised as GREEN, AMBER or RED according to their nutritional value.
GREEN foods are ‘everyday foods’, such as fruit, vegetables, lean meats and grains.
AMBER foods provide some nutrients, but can be high in energy (such as a burger).
The RED category differs from state to state but generally includes food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and sodium (salt), as well as soft drinks. Some states allow red items at certain times during the school year, whereas others have banned some or all red foods.
The existing guidelines are not mandatory in every state and territory, but are regarded as ‘best practice’ for all schools.
Remember, there’s strength in numbers, so first of all check with other parents to gauge their thoughts on the current food offerings at your school canteen.
Talk to the parent representative body (school council) and/or Parent Liaison Officer. Do they need to be formally approached to assist you in introducing a new policy? Find out what the process is.
Ask other supportive parents, teachers or the Principal to join you in writing to the decision makers in your school community asking for change.
It can be done….
Ashfield Public School in New South Wales is a great example of a school providing healthy food options for kids. The P&C Committee have produced a very useful report on their Healthy Choices Canteen Trial which shows how healthy options can work.
We also recommend that you have a look at our 2019 Parents’ Voice ChangeMakers Program, for access to some useful videos and resources. The free two part webinar series is specifically designed to help parents advocated for healthier food environments within their school canteen or tuckshop.
Many schools also allow children to snack on fruit and vegetables during specified class times to keep up energy levels and increase healthy food intake. Some schools call this ‘bite and write’, ‘crunch and sip’, or ‘brain food break’.
Schools can also strongly influence the food that children take to school by educating parents and encouraging a healthy, balanced lunchbox.
Parents’ Voice understands that fundraising is a challenging task and it’s all too easy for P&C committees to fall back on the tried and tested ‘chocolate drive’. In fact a well-known chocolate manufacturer does so well out of this type of fundraiser that it devotes a whole section of its website to promoting chocolate drives to schools and clubs!
However, there are lots of fun and profitable alternatives out there. Check out these sites for some good healthy fundraising tips: