Students – make it YOUR school canteen!

Your school canteen may already provide a range of healthy foods and drinks. However, there are always ways to improve food and drink choices and the revised Healthy School Canteen Strategy aims to do just that!

What do students think about Healthy School Canteens?

We recently asked a group of NSW students about their views on designing a healthy canteen. They told us that some ways to do this including:

  • providing better and broader education about healthy eating, including education about this at a younger age and to families and communities.
  • changing the food choices in canteens to include more interesting and healthier options such as non-fried and vegetarian choices.
  • eliminating junk food options. Some students believed that this should be done quickly while others felt that a slow withdrawal of these foods and drinks from the canteen would be better.
  • involving the whole school community in promoting healthy food options at the canteen and other school event sites such as sporting events. This means involving students as the largest group in the school community!
  • raising awareness of healthy foods by promoting good choices at the canteen and across the school with poster.
  • advertising only healthy foods in schools.
  • presenting clearer descriptions of what actually is healthy food and have a clear labelling system on food and drinks such as star ratings, to help students choose the healthier options.

How can you make your school canteen an awesome and healthy place?

While everyone needs to work together to make this happen, there are many ways you can help your school canteen become a provider of the healthiest food and drinks. Below are some suggestions on ways to help your canteen provide healthy food and drinks options.

Join a student leadership team

  • Become a student representative on your school’s canteen support team. Being on the team is the easiest way to express your opinion and those of your fellow students.
  • Ask your school’s SRC or other student leadership team to set healthy eating as a priority action and be involved in the school canteen.
  • Be involved in developing and administering surveys about healthy eating and the school canteen. Not only can the survey find out what the students, parents/carers and staff think about the school canteen’s food and drink choices, it can also increase interest in the operations of the canteen.

Help with the canteen menu

  • Provide the canteen with menu and recipe suggestions, including recipes of your favourite healthy foods from home.
  • Give suggestions for school canteen international food days. National dishes from all the different student nationalities in your school is an exciting way to start.
  • Ask about being involved with the canteen’s menu planning.
  • Support the school canteen with taste testing to trial new foods and recipes before they are sold.
  • Assist the school canteen to have theme days where certain types of tasty healthy food are sold.

Help the canteen to prepare and/or serve food

  • Investigate volunteering in the canteen for food preparation and/or food service. This could be linked to your classwork in Food Technology, Hospitality and other subjects or as part of your effort towards a volunteering award such as the Premier’s Volunteer Recognition Program.
  • In one secondary school a group of year 8 to 10 students participate in a program called Box ‘em, Sell ‘em and Eat ‘em where students prepare healthy lunches that are sold to their teachers each week.

Promote the canteen to students and staff

  • Make a video about the canteen for your school website and/or Facebook page. Show the canteen as an enjoyable place that provides great healthy food.
  • If you have a school mascot as part of your school’s Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) system, have the mascot promote the school canteen’s healthy food and drinks.
  • Create ‘healthy food and drinks at your canteen’ posters to promote sales of these at the canteen and around the school. The posters could also include Health Star Ratings to help students choose the healthiest foods.
  • Run competitions to create these posters and other ‘healthy food and drinks at your canteen’ promotional events. This could include competitions for the best names for your canteen and various healthy meal deals.
  • Have school canteen Master School Chef and Our Canteen Kitchen Rules days.
  • Speak at school assemblies about healthy eating and the school canteen’s efforts to provide healthy options for students. New food and drink choices at the canteen can be also promoted to students at these times.

Join other students to promote healthy eating at school

  • If you are a secondary school student ask your PDHPE teacher to investigate students being involved in peer led health promotion programs.
  • If you are a primary school student ask your teacher if you can be part of a student team that promotes healthy eating at the canteen during class lessons. This could be part of a buddy or peer support program that your school operates which could be called the Healthy Buddies program.
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