The school canteen is an integral part of the learning environment, and as such should operate in a manner that supports the health messages of the curriculum. Schools are encouraged to develop policy guidelines to ensure the smooth operation of the school canteen and to set clear policy regarding the types of food and drinks that will be sold. Each Australian state and territory has its own government policy/guidelines. Whilst there are many similarities, the guidelines do vary. FOCIS encourages school canteens to check the guidelines specific to their State/Territory.
School canteens have several important functions:
- To provide a service to the school community
- Schools and their canteen are well placed to support healthy eating and in fact have a vital role to play in helping to reduce the worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity
- To provide a variety of nutritious, tasty and attractively presented food and beverages at a reasonable cost
- To practically reinforce classroom health, food and nutrition education by supporting the main objectives of the respective State and Territory Departments of Education
- To maintain high standards of hygiene in handling, preparing, serving and storage of food in line with the National Food Safety Standards2
- To involve parents and the wider school community in the functioning of the school canteen so they can: contribute to setting educational goals and policies; participate in the development or evaluation of a canteen policy; and contribute to the health and nutrition education program of the school
When canteen staff, parents, teachers and students work together, the canteen can become a focal point for the food and nutrition education that supports and reinforces what students learn at home, in the classroom and in the community.
The health promoting schools approach is an initiative of the World Health Organisation4 and the school canteen is an integral factor in enabling a school to become a healthy place.
Health Promoting Schools
The World Health Organisation has championed Health Promoting Schools since 1995, launching WHO’s Global School Health Initiative with a focus to mobilise and strengthen health promotion and education activities at the local, national, regional and global levels. The Initiative was designed to improve the health of students, school personnel, families and other members of the community through schools. The school canteen is an integral factor in enabling a school to become a healthy place and adopting a whole school approach.