Introduction to the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy
The Healthy Eating Advisory Service supports Victorian primary and secondary schools to provide healthier foods and drinks in line with the Department of Education and Training's School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy.
The policy helps schools to:
- offer a variety of nutritious foods and drinks
- classify foods and drinks
- make it easy for students to choose healthy snacks and meals, and
- promote foods that are consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The policy applies to all school food services, such as vending machines, classroom/curriculum activities, sports days, special events, external lunch order services from milk bars or breakfast clubs.
It is strongly recommended for all Victorian Government schools, and in independent and Catholic schools.
The policy also outlines the importance of food selection to reflect the Australian Dietary Guidelines and cultural diversity. Food selection also includes choosing fresh foods over processed foods, and appropriate portion sizes for varying age groups.
Learn more about the food and drink categories below:
Food and drink categories
The School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy categorises foods and drinks into three categories:
Everyday category (green)
Everyday foods and drinks should be included as the main choices available and be made available every day. As a general guide, Everyday items should ideally represent more than 50 per cent of the menu.
Typical foods found in this category are whole foods such as fresh fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals, lean cuts of meat, legumes, canteen made soups, and reduced fat dairy products.
Select Carefully category (amber)
Select Carefully foods and drinks should not dominate the menu. These items are often processed and therefore should be offered in smaller serving sizes. As a general guide, Select Carefully items should ideally represent less than 50 per cent of your menu items. They can be made ‘greener’ by partnering with Everyday foods.
Typical foods found in this category include commercially prepared pastas, noodles, soups, meat products, cakes, dairy desserts, and fruit juice.
Occasionally category (red)
Foods and drinks in the Occasionally category should not be on the regular canteen menu or be regularly available in other areas of the school such as vending machines, foods used in curriculum activities and school events such as celebrations and sports days. Foods and drinks that are categorised Occasionally, are typically high in kilojoules, high in saturated fat, and high in salt.
Schools should limit the availability of these foods and drinks within the school to no more than two occasions per term.
Confectionery and high sugar content soft drinks should not be supplied through school food services at any time, under the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy. This includes energy drinks and flavoured mineral waters with high sugar content.
Learn more about the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy and how to make changes in your canteen with our FREE online training.
Additional nutrient criteria
The criteria below should be used in addition to the existing criteria in the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy.
These additions have also been applied to FoodChecker, so you can assess your foods and drinks according to the most up to date criteria for Victorian schools.
(in School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy)
|Updated/additional criteria||Criteria last updated (and used on FoodChecker)|
“Wholegrain cereals, whole wheat flakes and biscuits, and porridge fit into the Everyday category.
Refined cereals with added sugar and low fibre usually fit into the Select Carefully category.”
All breakfast cereals are classified as Everyday if saturated fat per 100g is equal to or less than 2g and sugar per 100g is equal to or less than 20g and fibre per 100g is equal to or greater than 5g.
Breakfast cereals not containing dried fruit are classified Occasionally if they contain more than 25g of sugar per 100g.
Breakfast cereals containing dried fruit are classified Occasionally if they contain more than 30g of sugar per 100g.
Any breakfast cereals that don’t match these criteria are classified as Select Carefully.
|Wholegrain or multigrain crackers||
Plain crisp bread, wholemeal or grainy crackers are Everyday.
All other crackers were classified as Select Carefully or Occasionally using the ‘Savoury snack foods and biscuits’ criteria.
Crackers are classified as Everyday if they meet the ‘Savoury snack foods and biscuits’ criteria AND have at least 2g of fibre per serve.
|Tuna and cracker packs||Products were classified as Select Carefully or Occasionally using the ‘Savoury snack foods and biscuits’ criteria.||
If the tuna is in spring water, the product is classified as Everyday. If not, the product is classified as Select Carefully.
Commercial ready made meals
(e.g., pasta, risotto, stir fries, casseroles, stews, curries, etc)
|Products were classified as Select Carefully or Occasionally using the ‘Savoury pastries, pasta, oven-baked potato products' criteria.||
Commercial ready made meals can be classified as Everyday if they meet the criteria below:
|Dip and crackers||Products were classified as Select Carefully or Occasionally using the ‘Savoury snack foods and biscuits’ criteria.||Classification is based on the dip only. If the dip is based on vegetables, legumes or yoghurt, the product is classified as Everyday. If not, it is Select Carefully.||February 2021|
|Milk||Milk was considered ‘reduced fat’ if the product was labelled as low/reduced fat, or if low fat milk was listed in the ingredients.||Milk is considered 'reduced fat' if it contains less than or equal to 2g of total fat per 100g, OR if it is labelled as 'low/reduced fat'.||February 2021|
|Coconut chips||All coconut chips are classified as Occasionally, regardless of whether they are dried, roasted or toasted.||October 2019|
|Trail mixes||Trail mixes are classified using the ‘mixed meal criteria’ (See page 25 of the Healthy Choices classification guide).|
Plain seaweed products, with no added ingredients (i.e., salt, sugar, fat), are classified as Everyday.
Flavoured seaweed snacks with added fat, sugar or salt are classified as Select Carefully or Occasionally using the ‘Savoury snack foods and biscuits’ criteria.
|Ready to eat mini meals (e.g., tuna and rice, legume meals)||
Ready to eat mini meals are classified Everyday if saturated fat per 100g/ml is equal to or less than 2g and sodium per 100g/ml is equal to or less than 400mg.
If not, they are classified as Select Carefully.
Kombucha is classified as Select Carefully if it has less than 1g of sugar per 100mL and the alcohol content is equal to or less than 0.5%.
Kombucha is classified as Occasionally if it contains 1g or more of sugar per 100mL and/or if alcohol content is greater than 0.5%.
|Canned/bottled coffee (water-based)||
Canned or bottled coffee (not milk-based) is classified:
Note: Milk-based canned or bottled coffee drinks are considered flavoured milk drinks.
|Diluted fruit juice||
Drinks made from a combination of water and juice can be Select Carefully if the juice component is at least 99% fruit juice and is diluted with water only, and if the amount of juice used is 250ml or less.
(Fruit juice is still classified as Select Carefully if it meets all the above criteria and is artificially sweetened.)
Fruit juice and water beverages are classified as Occasionally if it contains any added sugar, and/or if the ‘juice’ is not a 99% juice and/or if the amount of juice used is greater than 250mL.