Your school can make a big difference when it comes to creating a healthy eating environment. When children and young people eat well they learn better, are more alert and are more likely to grow and develop to their full potential.
By providing foods and drinks that support health and wellbeing for primary and secondary school students, you can help them establish healthy eating habits throughout some of the most influential years of their life.
This approach is a policy requirement of the Department of Education and Training’s School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy.
The steps below will help you to get started.
There’s a lot to do and you may face some challenges along the way. So, start wherever will be easiest for you. Many small changes can add up to big differences over time.
As you work through your plan to increase healthy eating at your school, you’ll find lots of helpful resources and information on this website to support the changes you need to make.
If your school is just starting out with creating a healthy eating environment we encourage you to register for Vic Kids Eat Well - an exciting new state-wide movement that’s focused on transforming the food and drink environments where kids spend their time. Register here.
Seek leadership and commitment from your school
Making the switch to healthy eating is a job for more than just one person! Everyone has a role to play. When leaders actively drive change it helps everyone in your school to feel supported and motivated to be involved.
Commitment and leadership from your school are essential to ensure that healthy changes in the school environment are made and sustained in the long term. Gaining this support should be one of your first steps.
As a starting point, try these ideas:
- obtain ongoing support from school leaders and encourage them to take an active role in the change process.
- find champions or people that support healthy eating in your school.
- organise a health and wellbeing committee or team to drive healthy changes. Ensure a representative from the school council or school management is on the committee.
- create a health promotion charter which outlines your schools commitment to health and wellbeing. Contact the Achievement Program for assistance.
- provide time, money, resourcing and support for healthy changes to take place. For example, provide canteen staff with extra time to plan healthier menus or to undertake training.
- find ways to involve the wider school community. Look at what Buckley Park College has done for some inspiration!
- involve other groups like health professionals and local networks (for example, local food business and caterers).
Register with Vic Kids Eat Well
Offering delicious and healthy foods and drinks gives children and young people the fuel they need to power through their school day. Vic Kids Eat Well can help your school to meet the school food services policy and provide a healthier environment that supports the children and young people in your care.
Vic Kids Eat Well is supported by the Victorian Government, and is delivered by Nutrition Australia and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service in partnership with Cancer Council Victoria’s Achievement Program.
Register with the Achievement Program
Joining the Victorian Government’s Achievement Program and working through the healthy eating and oral health best-practice benchmarks is a great way to show leadership and commitment, and improve healthy eating at your school.
The Achievement Program is creating healthier schools. It gives you an evidence-based framework to create a healthy environment that supports the health and wellbeing of the school community. Once you register with the program, you can access their online portal for a range of tools, resources and to receive the support you need along the way.
Creating a healthy school will help your students learn, play and reach their full potential. For more information about the Achievement Program and to register visit www.achievementprogram.health.vic.gov.au
Note: Outside school hours care (OSHC) services cannot register with the Achievement Program independently of the school in which they provide a service.
Develop a healthy eating policy
The Department of Education and Training’s School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy has been developed to provide and promote healthy foods and drinks in Victorian schools. It is mandatory for all Victorian Government schools, and is strongly recommended for implementation in independent and Catholic schools.
A commitment to healthy eating which is reflected in the school’s policies is an essential step to drive healthy changes to food and drink menus. Schools registered with the Achievement Program must have an endorsed and regularly reviewed healthy eating policy and ensure it is implemented to achieve the healthy eating benchmarks.
Make sure your policy covers different areas of the school, not just the food service. For example: think about how your policy addresses food and drinks provided to children from home (lunchboxes), breakfast programs, snack and drink breaks, and foods provided for fundraisers and during special occasions such as sporting events and camps. Also consider how your healthy eating policy addresses sponsorship, curriculum activities and learning opportunities, and engaging with families and the wider community.
For your policy to be effective, it must be clear and communicated regularly to the whole school community. For more information about developing a policy and to access a healthy food and drinks policy template which you can adapt, visit www.achievementprogram.health.vic.gov.au
Engage with food service providers
Getting food service providers on board with healthy eating is an important factor in making changes to the meals, snacks and drinks which are offered. This applies to the canteen manager in schools, external catering services and both food and vending suppliers.
Talk with food service providers about:
- What they can do to meet the healthy school canteen guidelines and how this may enhance their business and provide new marketing opportunities
- Healthy recipes and food and drink ideas
- How to promote healthy foods.
Train your staff
- why a healthy food service is important
- whole-of-school approach
- school canteens and other school food services policy
- creating a healthy menu
- promoting healthy foods and drinks
- managing the food service
Training is recommended for all school members who are involved in the food service for primary and secondary schools (e.g. the principal, teachers, volunteers (including parents), canteen managers and caterers).
For more information visit our Training options page.
Make healthy changes to your food service!
Make some healthy changes to your school’s canteen or food service. Ideally this is based on what you have learnt in training, however you can always start with these priority changes before attending training. The best way to achieve results is by making simple changes which will have a big impact.
Priority changes for schools
The following four areas are recommended for schools to prioritise and focus on when making changes to a healthier food service.
- There is no confectionery on the menu
- There are no sugar sweetened drinks on the menu
- There are no deep fried foods on the menu
- Plain water is always available
Refer to the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy for more details on confectionery and sugar sweetened beverages.
How HEAS can help
After addressing the areas above, you might like to have some support from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service to review your menu and ensure it includes food and drinks in line with the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy.
First ensure you have:
- demonstrated commitment and leadership from management
- a healthy eating policy which is applied across the whole school
- made healthy changes in the priority areas above.
Once you have completed these steps, contact us to discuss what further support we can provide.