Grays Point PS: Going healthy with gusto
Grays Point Public School approached the Healthy School Canteens Strategy with gusto, including canteen staff, volunteers, students and families in the decision making and sharing in the learning as they embarked on a 6-month transition.
The school’s canteen is P&C run and had traditionally sold ‘heat and serve’ products. Principal Narelle Betts-Smith says the menu now features as much fresh food as possible. “My biggest concern was around changing the treats we sold; however kids are now happily buying fresh fruit and yoghurt.”
Because they set out to find the healthiest available versions of its most popular items – including chicken nuggets and slushies – they were “no punitive measures” and the transition was smooth.
The P&C’s canteen coordinator, Justine Williams, was instrumental in the transition – researching the new strategy, surveying parents and even trying out recipes at home. “I also liaised with the Healthy Kids Association and the canteen manager and I attended workshops with the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, which did a menu assessment and review for us,” she explains.
“Very few changes needed to be implemented as we had incorporated most of them already and at the last information evening the Canteen Manager and I assisted other schools in the review of their menus.”
Once the menu was locked in, Mrs Betts-Smith spent a few weeks spreading the word before it was unveiled. “I would promote it by visiting classrooms and saying, “Have you heard about what will be on sale at the new canteen?””
The excitement built, the shutters opened, and the rest is history. “I’ve never heard a student say, “Why don’t we have this or that anymore?” she says. “It was managed respectfully and it all went really well. Everyone did a marvellous job over a short period of time.”
Marrickville PS: Made to order
Just about everything on the menu is made from scratch at Wil’s Canteen at Marrickville Public School in Sydney’s inner west.
The canteen is operated by Wil Angus, who likes to make the food fun as well as healthy and appealing. “What can be good for you can also taste good, be interesting, be enjoyable and be a talking point.”
He says the best thing about running the canteen is interacting with the students. Wil knows all of their names and remembers what their favourite menu items are too. One student recently declared how much they missed Wil after only three days away at school camp.
Wil had two children at the school when he took over the canteen licence; one is now studying at a nearby high school. “I’ve been running the canteen now for six years,” he says. “I prepare all of the food from scratch, with very little processed ingredients and next to nothing bought in from external suppliers.”
Principal Kerry Chambers says healthy eating also impacts on the students’ learning as well as their physical wellbeing. “They feel healthy, they feel happier and they learn more.”
The canteen’s healthy menu reinforces the healthy living lessons taught in the school and is a hit with parents. “The Healthy School Canteens Strategy was a perfect fit for our community,” Ms Chamber says.
Marrickville Public School is located under the flightpath, between an industrial zone and residential area. Established in 1864, the heritage-listed school currently has over 300 students and is very culturally and socially diverse. One student famously asked Wil if there was anything Paleo on the menu!