Canteens, Healthy Eating and Other Food Services Policy

Schools Food industry

The purpose of this policy is to ensure school food services provide food and drinks which contribute to a supportive, healthy school environment.

Four school children sitting on a brick wall

Why you need to know this policy?

School food services play an important role in providing food and drink options which contribute to a supportive, healthy school environment.

  • A school culture in which students actively choose nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle supports learning and health outcomes for children and young people.
  • Victorian government schools should support a healthy eating culture by developing a healthy school food services and promoting healthy eating principles. Schools should ensure healthy food choices are the major option made available to the school community by their school, and should never supply high sugar content drinks or confectionery.
This policy has been developed by Victorian Department of Education. For more information and to read the policy visit

The benefits of the policy

School food services can have a major impact on the foods and drinks that students are exposed to and consume. Enjoyment of healthy foods and drinks has a wide range of positive benefits for student health and learning outcomes such as:

  • providing important nutrients that students need to be alert and engaged in classroom
  • activities and for healthy physical development and performance
  • supporting the development of healthy eating habits and preferences
  • paving the way for good health and prevention of chronic illness

It is important that parents, teachers and students work together to support a whole-school-approach to healthy eating and build a school culture which supports students to choose nutritious foods and drinks, and a healthy lifestyle.

Who is the policy for?

This policy applies to Victorian government schools including primary, secondary, special and language schools. It applies to all foods and drinks provided in the following areas within the school environment:

  • school canteens and contracted school food services
  • external businesses and retail food outlets supplying schools (for example, milk bars, cafes and bakeries)
  • vending machines
  • school curriculum activities
  • rewards and incentives
  • school sporting days, social events and productions
  • school-based breakfast programs
  • outside school hours care programs on school grounds

This policy does not apply to:

  • foods and drinks used for the management of individual student’s health conditions
  • student lunches and snacks brought from home
  • student birthday celebrations
  • non-school-related events and activities managed by external organisations on school grounds, for example community sport
  • school camps

Understanding food classification for schools

To assist schools and school food services to select and supply healthy eating options, foods and drinks have been divided into three categories according to the traffic light system.

  • Ensure EVERYDAY food and drinks are always available as more than 50 per cent of the menu
  • SELECT CAREFULLY food and drinks are less than 50 per cent of your menu items
  • Limit the availability of OCCASIONALLY food and drinks to no more than two occasions per term.

Schools must never supply:

  • high sugar content drinks such as energy drinks and flavoured mineral waters with high sugar content
  • confectionery such as chocolate, lollies, yoghurt compound and coatings, fudge and chewing gum (refer to Resources for the School Confectionary Guidelines)

For information on the school traffic light system, including examples see how to improve your school canteen menu


FoodChecker is our free online tool to classify foods and drinks according to the Canteens, Healthy Eating and Other Food Services Policy. Save time by entering your food or drink items to get an instant report. 

Visit FoodChecker

The policy also covers

  • Special dietary requirements
  • Anaphylactic (severe) food allergy
  • Role of school council and canteen
  • Definitions used
  • Related policies and legislation

Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.

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