Creating opportunities to engage volunteers

Volunteers can be enablers for a Healthy School Canteen however, it is acknowledged that the availability of volunteers can be a pressing issue for school canteens.

The value of volunteers to the school community, as well as the value of volunteering for an individual, should be expressed at every opportunity.

What can schools do to attract and retain volunteers?

The school can identify and use opportunities to encourage, support and reward volunteering in the school canteen. Here are some ways to attract and retain volunteers:

  • Provide initial training, including pairing new volunteers with those who are more experienced.
  • Train volunteers in food preparation and service, which can be used in other employment. This work can contribute towards prior learning credits for an adult learning certificate, for example Certificate Level 1–3 through a local service provider, and is worth investigating.
  • Provide a complimentary lunch for the volunteer’s child/children on the day that he/she is working.
  • Involve volunteers in decision-making and leadership roles, and give them an opportunity to make suggestions, including asking what motivates them. Use this information to provide new incentives.
  • Establish a bulletin board in the canteen with anecdotes, cartoons, information, tips and 'thank you' notes.
  • Create a volunteer webpage for the school.
  • Appeal to grandparents and/or approach Senior Citizen organisations.
  • Provide in-kind incentives to parent and carer volunteers that can be redeemed in various ways.

What can school leaders do to acknowledge volunteers?

There are several strategies that school leaders can use to acknowledge volunteers and increase the likelihood of retaining them:

  • Visit the canteen regularly to thank volunteers.
  • Organise 'thank you' afternoon teas.
  • Arrange end-of-year/semester personalised and group 'thank you' events.
  • Provide public acknowledgement of volunteers, where culturally appropriate.
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