Campaigning for healthy school food

Campaigning for healthy school food

The state school my boys attend implemented a Healthy Food Policy (HFP) to take effect at the beginning of Term 3, 2014. YES, this was my moment. Everybody has their soapbox issue. Mine is healthy food for children.

I have always set out to feed my boys a balanced and healthy diet as this has huge benefits in terms of growth – physical, emotional and social. I have also come to realise how important the ‘food environment’ can be when it comes to decision-making about what food to buy for children and adults. Peer pressure and the way food is discussed, prepared, served and viewed can make such a difference to what is wanted and what is eaten.

When the school board voted to bring in the HFP, with the support of the principal, it provided a framework within which changes could begin to be made to the food environment. However, change does not happen through policy alone…

For me the first step was volunteering to help make changes. I have the passion and I can make the time. Then it was finding like-minded parents to be involved. The principal suggested I run information sessions for parents to discuss what changes we could make long term and determine what could be done immediately. From this emerged a great team of parents committed to supporting changes to the type of food offered by the school.

Our first major project was to provide healthy options at all school events, with the next on the calendar being the annual sports day. Traditionally, precooked sausages are reheated on the BBQ and served with a slice of white bread and tomato ketchup. This is usually washed down by frozen store-bought popsicles…

The challenge was to provide healthy, tasty, economical and practical food choices. Finding a sausage that ticked all these boxes was a hard ask, but we got there in the end. A Tonzu vegan sausage browned like a regular sausage, had a good texture and a great taste. It also meant that those students who do not eat meat/pork were included – some for the first time. We paired this with some preservative-free wholemeal flatbread, homemade hummus (no allergen) and homemade non-sweetened tomato ketchup (a huge hit). We also wanted to provide fresh veges as this was to be seen as a complete meal and not just a snack (and, of course, a proper meal should always contain veges).

Now you can see why a small team of dedicated parents was needed for our first ever Veggie-Q.

Angelina, Inge, Maya and Lesley serving the Veggie-Q. Ruby can’t wait to tuck into hers! Joe with veggie cup and wrap.

This was something very new for the school community so none of us had any idea how it would be received, what the take-up would be, and how the students would feel about something different.

The school and the PTA (who coordinate the BBQs) were very supportive. It was a great success. Over 15 per cent of the students bought, ate and enjoyed the new option. This was impressive for the first time that a healthy option was offered.

There was excellent feedback with the kids enjoying the sausage and flatbread combo. A few said the bread was a little chewy (and perhaps more so for those used to eating soft, white bread). Next time we’ll use pita pockets for a slightly softer option. And definitely order better weather.

Join us next time to discover what we offered instead of the popsicles, and what crazy scheme we came up with for the school disco.

First published: Mar 2015


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