We believe school canteens can play a pivotal role in effecting behavioural change because they are ideally placed to directly influence children’s lives and impact their food choices. Most adult food preferences are formed during childhood so it is critical that efforts are made to improve the availability of healthy food options at school. An ideal way is to provide organic alternatives to conventional, highly processed foods containing too much fat, salt, sugar and artificial additives.
Most of us would agree that school is a place that should encourage healthy attitudes to food and well-being. Canteens are symbols for kids – and what parents and educators do to provide nutritional guidance to kids can be undermined when junk food is freely available from school tuckshops.
Nourishing our children’s health by providing healthy canteen food and drinks should be a priority for every school, and schools shouldn’t wait for government regulation before they can act. Canteens can make a real difference to the lives of kids right now by making a healthier choice.
How schools can help encourage healthier eating:
- Junk the junk from the school canteen. Review what’s on the canteen menu and remove any red or amber rated foods and drinks.
- Go additive free. Check the ingredient lists for all canteen foods and drinks, and remove those made with too many artificial additives, flavours, preservatives or colours.
- Hold “Sip and Crunch” mornings where kids have a 5-10 minute break before recess to eat unprocessed, fresh fruit or vegetables. Get the whole class involved in cutting up pieces for platters to share with everyone.
- Run Healthy Fun Food Days where kids learn to make healthy foods.
- Create a school garden where children can grow their own veggies and fresh produce, and then harvest them for cooking healthy meals for kids to share in class.
- Make healthy food choice cool by educating kids about how healthy food can nourish their growing bodies and minds.
- Ask children to keep a food diary for a week (or even a month!) so they can record what foods they ate and how they felt (moods) after eating them. Share their experience with their class mates.
- Teaching children how to read food labels and nutritional panels, and to help them understand the difference between advertising and marketing claims, and genuine health benefits.
- Hold cooking classes. Get the whole school involved by having kids in older grades be “mentor chefs” for children in younger grades.
- Includes healthy lunchbox recipes in the school newsletter for mums and dads to make at home.