Schools are the perfect place to provide healthy food and regular physical activity opportunities for all kids. In reality, while children may be taught in the classroom about the importance of healthy eating, often the canteen provisions, fundraising events or physical activities do not always reflect healthy, balanced lifestyle choices.

Parents’ Voice wants to help parents bring about change in school tuckshops, promote healthy school fundraising and increase opportunities for physical activity.

Canteen Guidelines

School Canteens

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.

Change at your school canteen

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.

Fruit Breaks in the Classroom

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.

Healthy Fundraising

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:

Cancer Council NSW Healthy Fundraising

Sunsational: sunscreen fundraiser

Healthy Fundraising Ideas – Health Eating Advisory Service

Healthy School Fundraising Ideas – Healthy Kids Association

Food-Free Fundraising Ideas – Healthy Kids Association

Our Advice

  1. Be patient, it takes time to bring about change. Other parents will need to be convinced that new types of fundraising actually work and that sufficient funds will be raised through new fundraising methods.
  2. Introduce change slowly: swap the sausage sizzle for a soup day; ditch the chocolate drive for a mango fundraiser and replace Easter egg raffles for ‘living’ fundraisers where families can grow their own herbs.
  3. Contact us at Parents’ Voice, we can put you in touch with other parents, offer advice, give support and work with you to make healthy changes in your community.

Parent Tips – How to introduce healthy changes at your school or club

  1. Have a friendly chat with the teacher/coach. They should be well aware of the importance of healthy eating and will hopefully be happy to have an interested parent who will help make the necessary changes.
  2. Talk to other parents. Parents understand the importance of nutritious food and once they are clear that other, more healthy options can work, it will be easier to get them on board to support the change.
  3. Show how it can be done. Use examples of how similar schools or clubs have used healthy options.