We’ve just been awarded a Healthy Schools Canteen award for the third year in a row! When I think back to when I started in this job and the uphill battle I had to get the kids and their parents on board … removing the high fat, high sodium and high sugar food from the canteen menu was certainly not supported by everybody and there were plenty of complaints. This has changed though and healthy canteens have become mandatory with the introduction of the Fresh Tastes @ School NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy that was introduced a few years ago. The strategy is all about giving students a taste for healthy foods. At Wiimali we are just about to start a breakfast program as a lot of kids don’t have breakfast and their performance really suffers. It is not unusual to see kids eating lollies and chips for lunch or recess and a lot bring fizzy drinks to school too.
Why focus on school canteens?
Schools are ideal settings to educate children about healthy food choices and physical activity. School canteens can provide a substantial proportion of a child’s daily nutritional intake if both lunch and snacks are regularly purchased from the school canteen. Our school canteen lets children put into practice the nutrition messages they are being taught in the classroom. We model healthier food choices that are tasty, interesting and affordable. This can influence food choices at school and at home too.
At Wiimali PS we try to make healthy eating a celebration. We just had a Fruit ‘n’ Veg Month celebration and ran a Big Banana Peel with 400 students dressing in yellow and starting the day peeling and eating a banana. This event was supported by Cancer Council volunteers, Wiimali Fruit Market and members of our local footy club.
Why do we bother? After all pre-processed food is cheaper and quicker to prepare. Well, rates of childhood obesity have been increasing in recent years. NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey data from 2004 show that 25% of boys and 23.3% of girls in NSW are overweight. This represents a significant increase over the last decade. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing an important part. Healthy canteens can make a difference in addressing this epidemic but on their own they are not enough. I still worry about the kids that come to school with a lunch box full of junk food don’t have a healthy diet at home.
Story by Jill