Woman working in canteen

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 or face to face training. Visit Training options for more information.


Additional nutrient criteria

Please note some additional nutrient criteria have been developed to assess commercial hot meals against the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy.

Commercial hot meals (ready to eat meals such as pasta, risotto, stir fries, casseroles, stews, curries, etc.) that meet the relevant AMBER criteria on page 13 of the Healthy Canteen Kit – Food Planner, can be further checked against the criteria below to see if they should be classified as GREEN.

School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy additional GREEN nutrient criteria for commercial hot meals
Nutrient Criteria

600kJ or less per100g

1600kJ or less per serve

Saturated fat 2g or less per 100g

300mg or less per 100g

750mg or less per serve


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