Supporting a healthy menu in the classroom
Why is healthy eating important?
Did you know that only 10% of Victorian students are eating their recommended amount of fruit and vegetables!1
However 40% of their daily energy intake comes from ‘junk foods’ such as cakes, fast food, confectionary, and sugary drinks2.
Teaching children about healthy eating promotes optimal physical growth and development3.
Healthy students are better learners
Attitudes, education behaviour, cognitive skills, and academic performance are all accomplished better by healthy students4
Taking action to help students be healthy and happy by providing healthy food and drinks can lead to a reduction in student absenteeism, fewer student behavioural issues, and higher test scores3,4.
Healthy eating links with the curriculum
Healthy eating and nutrition is a part of the school curriculum, it is important to back this learning up by having a whole-school approach, making all areas of the school a healthy eating environment (i.e. healthy fundraising, special events, healthy canteens, healthy eating curriculum activities).
Having a healthy canteen can have many benefits to students’ performance and wellbeing at your school
Whether your canteen is school-run, run by an external food provider, or you have food sourced from local shops in your area, you can help promote healthy options by reinforcing healthy eating messages in the classroom.
Why get students involved in supporting a healthy canteen in the classroom?
- It helps students to have a healthier relationship with food.
- Canteen menu changes will have greater acceptance and sustainability.
- You will be contributing to a whole-of-school approach to healthy eating at your school.
- Students will help to support the work being done by canteen staff.
Classroom activity ideas
See some great classroom activities you can try with your students below.
Get the creative juices flowing
Get the students thinking outside the box by setting mini competitions.
You could get students to:
- come up with a healthy snack or meal recipe to trial
- design promotional posters to advertise the canteen and its healthy items
- create cool and fun names for new menu items (e.g. The Hulk Burger)
- you could even get the students to help name and decorate the canteen, like Marlborough Primary School did!
Grow, grow, grow
If your school has a kitchen garden program why not link it to the canteen, by using the ingredients you grow and recipes you cook to test possible new canteen menu items.
You could also help to supply the canteen with herbs or easy to grow vegetables (you might even save a little money).
Many hands make light work
For the older grades get the class to help assess the canteen menu against the School Canteens and Other School Food Services Policy, using the schools account with the online tool FoodChecker. This will identify the proportion of Everyday, Select Carefully and Occasionally foods and drinks on the menu, and provide suggestions on healthier foods to offer.
The students could also volunteer in the canteen, supporting the school and learning some great life skills, gaining retail experience.
Students take the lead
Get your school’s student representative council or students’ voice group to support the canteen and take charge of ensuring the menu is loved and healthy. This could include helping to plan theme days.
Promotion is key
Get the students involved with creating promotional videos about the canteen and/or updates about changes to the canteen menu. This will help the school community get excited about the canteen! You could post these on the school’s social media (e.g. Facebook, website).
How will you promote healthy eating in your classroom?
1 Victorian Child and Adolescent Outcomes Framework. The Department of Education and Training, 2016, https://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/research/Pages/vcamsindicator.aspx
2 Australian Health Survey 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
3 American College of Sports Medicine, American School Health Association, GENYOUth Foundation, National Dairy Council, The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Through Healthy School Environment, March 2013.
4 Student Health and Academic Achievement. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Population Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2009.