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Creating your canteen’s Healthy Eating Policy

A Healthy Eating, or Healthy Food and Drink Policy, is a document which not only puts in writing the guiding principles and goals of your canteen, but can also be applied throughout the school and let the wider community know exactly where you stand with regard to the nutritional content of the food you serve.

Such a policy forms an integral component of the various accreditation programs for school canteens which are becoming more commonplace, including the StarCAP 2 accreditation program in Western Australia and the Tasmanian School Canteen Association’s accreditation scheme. WA schools are required to have such a policy in order to comply with the WA Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink Policy and we can expect that similar measures will be instituted in other states over time.

The aim of a Healthy Eating Policy is to ensure consistency across the school community with regard to healthy eating. Not only does it provide direction and guidance to canteen staff, teachers, P&C association members and parents, it provides a benchmark by which the canteen’s menu can be measured and sets goals to strive for.

For these reasons, the final document should be endorsed by the school principal and P&C Association, as it then becomes the template for canteen decision-making as well as a set of guidelines for serving food within the school at sporting events, fetes, fundraising activities and similar.

So what does your school’s Healthy Eating Policy document need to cover?

 

Setting out your aims

Start with a ‘mission statement’ – a paragraph or so which outlines your canteens ongoing commitment to offering healthy food and drink, and emphasises the importance of its role in providing this to the school. Also state the parameters of the policy – the fact that it applies not only within the school canteen but across the broader school environment including sporting events, outside caterers who come into the school grounds to sell their food, and school excursions and similar.

Underpinning this commitment with a statement emphasising the policy’s grounding in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and the Australian Dietary Guidelines sets out the firm foundation upon which your policy is built.

 

The policy’s principles

Outline the principles by which the canteen is committed to operating. Examples include:

* Promoting and encouraging healthy eating

* Sourcing products and ingredients locally wherever possible

* Ensuring the canteen remains financially sustainable

* The canteen’s goal of making a positive profit contribution to the school once operating costs have been met, and the allocation of these funds to appropriate resources (for example new equipment for students)

* Reinforcing positive nutritional messages through example of the food that is sold

* Enabling children to make informed choices about the nutritional quality of the food they eat and amass knowledge they can carry into adulthood

 

Responsibilities

This section sets out the cope of the canteen’s responsibilities and the hierarchy of the decision making process. Given that the Healthy Eating Policy is designed to apply across the school and not just in the canteen, here you can nominate representatives from the P&C, teaching/admin staff and others for involvement in the various responsibilities such as determining the canteen menu, creating an affordable pricing structure, equipment maintenance and so on.

 

Menu policy

Here you outline the guiding principles of your menu planning, for example how you will manage the ratio of green to amber rated foods as a percentage of the total menu. The various state guidelines may specify a minimum percentage for green rated foods on the menu. You can also specify here your commitment to making a wide variety of different cuisine styles available, or to rotating food recipes on a seasonal basis. This section could also specify pricing structure, for example a commitment to applying a smaller markup on green rated food than amber rated food.

 

Identify opportunities for implementation across the school

As we have emphasised throughout this article the aim of the Policy is to create a document which can be implemented not just in the canteen but throughout the school. For this reason, include a section in which you outline how that can work by specifying examples of how the Policy can be applied to various school programs and initiatives.

 

Other areas to cover

These will vary depending upon your school, state Education Department requirements and so on, but as a general guide you might include sections on the following:

  • Your school’s broader commitment to healthy eating and active lifestyle choices through exercise and sports, often related to fundraising programs and health initiatives from organisations such as the Heart Foundation
  • Healthy and safety procedures in the school canteen
  • Volunteer training and mentoring programs
  • Food equipment maintenance procedures
  • Your canteen’s policy regarding accepting free product samples, donations or food products at concessional rates

 

You can find more information, including Healthy Food Policy templates, at the websites of the WA School Canteen Association (http://www.waschoolcanteens.org.au) and Tasmanian School Canteen Association (http://www.tascanteenassn.org.au).

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