Frequently asked questions

When does the Healthy School Canteen Strategy apply?

Does the Strategy apply to festivals/carnivals/fetes and events outside the school canteen?

The Strategy only applies to school canteens and not to food sold in fundraisers or events outside the school canteen. The Nutrition in Schools Policy for government schools states that healthy eating and good nutrition should be promoted in all school activities and programs that involve food and drink. Where school activities involve the provision of food and drink to the wider school community, consideration should be given to promoting healthy eating.

At the discretion of the principal, a school may choose to invite the canteen to cater for a special event, such as a school fair or school celebration. For ideas to reinforce healthy eating messages through healthy school fundraising see the NSW Healthy Kids website.

Does the Strategy apply to food brought from home or bought outside the school on school field trips?

The Strategy applies to school canteens only. The Strategy does not apply to food brought from home or bought outside school grounds. There are healthy lifestyle programs available through the Healthy Kids website that schools can be involved in such as Live Life Well @ School, Crunch&Sip, Live Outside the Box and kitchen gardens to promote healthy eating to the school community and families. Learning to support healthy lifestyle choices is also embedded in the school curriculum.

Do school canteens that are only open a few days a week need to follow the Strategy?

Yes. The Strategy applies to all public schools in NSW. Schools have time (2017-2019) to move to the new strategy, so schools can be responsive to their canteen operating arrangements, product availability, rural or remote location, and community and cultural expectations.

Occasional Food and Health Star Ratings

Do foods freshly prepared in the school canteen require a Health Star Rating?

Freshly prepared foods made in the school canteen do not need to meet an overall Health Star Rating. Any packaged Occasional ingredients used in a recipe need to have a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or above (for example, any processed or crumbed meats used in a burger or sandwich need to be 3.5 stars and above). The maximum portion size should not be exceeded.

Does food bought from a local bakery require a Health Star Rating?

If you are sourcing pies or sausage rolls from a large commercial supplier, then they need to have a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or above and a maximum portion size applies. Unpackaged pies and sausage rolls from a local bakery may be checked for their portion size only.

If I make an Occasional meal or snack in the school canteen such as crumbed chicken or a sausage roll using healthy ingredients, does it become Everyday?

Occasional food and drink (for example, crumbed chicken, savoury pastries, garlic bread and muffins) is always categorised as Occasional – even if you freshly prepare them yourself in the canteen. This is because the Food and Drink Criteria, which underpins the new Strategy, is based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013), which classifies these foods as Occasional.

Only the healthier versions of Occasional foods should be sold. Schools are encouraged to use healthy Everyday ingredients when freshly preparing Occasional foods, plus ingredients from the Essentials Shopping List. Packaged varieties will need to meet a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars or above. Portion sizes should not be exceeded for both freshly prepared and packaged foods and drinks.

Special foods and exceptions

Nuts are not included in the Food and Drink Criteria - can I sell nuts in my school canteen?

Community concern about anaphylaxis has informed the decision not to promote the inclusion of nuts in schools. Schools should refer to their relevant education website for full anaphylaxis procedures.

Does the Food and Drink Criteria apply to religious and special diets?

School canteens often need to provide food or drink products for children with a range of special dietary needs, for example, those following a halal, kosher, gluten-free or lactose-free dietary pattern. School canteens should aim to provide the healthiest versions of these products. In some Occasional food groups these foods for particular dietary needs may not be available with a Health Star Rating of 3.5 stars and above. In these instances, special diet foods should be available for children who require them regardless of their Health Star Rating. Portion sizes should be maintained.

Why are some foods on the Essentials Shopping List?

Items on the Essentials Shopping List are not intended to be eaten alone. They can be used in the preparation of both Everyday or Occasional food and drink, and may help to make an Everyday meal or snack more appealing. To make it easier for canteens to find suitable products, these ingredients do not require a Health Star Rating. Some of the ingredients on the list should only be used in small amounts, and salt-reduced or reduced-fat varieties should be used where available.

I can’t find suitable foods to meet the Strategy. What should I do?

Moving to the new Strategy may take time, which is why there is a transition period of 3 years (2017-2019). Schools should expect to see their food manufacturers and suppliers incorporate the new Strategy requirements (the Food and Drink Criteria) into their business practices over this time.

The NSW School Canteen Buyer’s Guide, containing a list of canteen products that meet the new Strategy, was distributed during Term 3.

The Healthy Food Finder allows you to search for the Health Star Rating of packaged food.

An online database is due to be release for term 2, 2018 to further support canteen managers to find suitable products. The database will allow individuals to search for many commonly sold food and drinks and will provide product information, the Health Star Rating, and whether the food or drink is Everyday or Occasional.

Strategy development and maintenance

How were the portion sizes for food and drink developed?

Portion sizes were developed based on the varying needs of growing children. For some items a larger portion size is available for secondary school students. Some consideration was also made for the products commercially available to ensure choice and availability.

Will the Food and Drink Criteria be reviewed over time?

The Food and Drink Criteria will be regularly reviewed to ensure it is both nutritionally appropriate and easy to implement.

Further help

Where can schools go to get additional help implementing or understanding the Strategy and how to apply the Food and Drink Criteria?

The Healthy Kids Association has a school support line that schools can use to help them through the transition period - (02) 9876 1300.

Recipes and tips are available on the Healthy Kids website.  Local Health Districts are also available to provide local support and help assist schools implement the new Strategy.

For further questions about the strategy, you can email the Healthy School Canteens team.

Return to top of page