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“Crisis in School Canteens,” ACT Parents and Citizens Group

By 4 June 2012 25

meat pie

The tension between schools offering a healthy diet and cost-effective food has reached crisis point in the Australian Capital Territory resulting in many school canteens shutting down entirely, according to the ACT Parents & Citizens Associations.

ACT P&C President Vivienne Pearce said the issue had been building for years, but her organisation was now at its wits’ end as to how to solve the crisis. Urgent meetings have been called with the ACT Department of Education, but at the coal-face of school lunch hour, many students were faced with expensive options, or no options at all.

Part of the problem lies in the piecemeal approach to providing food at schools according to Ms Pearce. Each ACT school decides individually how to service its canteens, creating a form of nutritional Russian-roulette for students.

“A lot of it comes down to the individuals running the canteens. Some have small business experience, some don’t … We’ve had instances of canteens going under because they are tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” Ms Pearce said.

But the alternative to volunteer-run canteens, commercial canteen providers contracted directly by schools, were also causing problems according to teachers contacted. “None of the teachers will buy food from the canteen, it’s too expensive and of pretty poor quality,” one ACT public high-school teacher said on condition of anonymity. No teachers contacted were prepared to be named publicly, citing concerns over upcoming moves to make school hiring policies semi-autonomous.

ACT Minister for Education, Dr Chris Bourke, said his department was aware of the problem and had convened a task-force which is due to meet today. The Minister said there were no plans to find extra money in the ACT budget to finance school canteens.

Dianne Whyley of Metro Canteens, a for-profit business that runs canteens at both public and private schools in the ACT, including Gunghalin College, Belconnen High and Marist, said her company was not aware of any problems.

“We do look after 10,000 students a day [in Canberra] and if there has been one complaint, I’m pretty happy with that,” Ms Whyley said. Ms Whyley said her company’s food was delivered with an eye towards nutrition and was reasonably priced. Ms Whyley supplied menus for several schools and the menu for Martist College, selected at random, can be found here.

However, the ACT P&C is not convinced commercial operators are the best solution. “For-profit businesses can put their bottom-line ahead of what’s best for the students … We would like to see the government getting involved with small business training for volunteers and we’ll be discussing that at the upcoming task-force,” Ms Pearce said.

Have an issue you want investigated or evidence of corruption and/or waste in the Australian Capital Territory? Contact CanberraLeaks at canberraleaks@hushmail.com. All matters treated confidentially and anonymous contact preferred.

[Photo by diongillard CC BY 2.0]

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25 Responses to “Crisis in School Canteens,” ACT Parents and Citizens Group
#1
AG Canberra1:19 pm, 04 Jun 12

The arrangement at our primary school works well. Basically healthy food available all the time. Red food day a few times a term. No canteen on Monday and best of all – online ordering so the whole business is cashless and covers the forgetful son with his lunch order in his bag come lunch time.

I reckon better screening of the manager/provider will sort this out pretty quick.

#2
p11:42 pm, 04 Jun 12

They have a breakfast menu?

Perhaps it is time for ACT Education to get corporate sponsorship from McDonalds in exchange for the rights to the canteens?

#3
devils_advocate2:47 pm, 04 Jun 12

Nutritional russian roulette?

Please.

In Russian Roulette the potential outcome is dying.

In this, the potential outcome is some children getting a slightly sub-optimal choice of meals, or having to bring them from home if there is no canteen.

To equate the risk of parents having to take responsibility for their children’s diets with the risk of death is just emotive and disingenuous.

#4
shaun3:11 pm, 04 Jun 12

Amaroo School used a commercial company up until 2010. The P&C took over the management of the canteen in 2011, and (a) find it easier to balance healthy v profitable while (b) still making a good financial return (which goes back to the school as donations from the P&C). However, Amaroo is a large school (1000+ students) which makes running a profitable canteen easier.
(Disclaimer: I am on the Amaroo P&C exec, although I have no connection with the canteen itself)

#5
p13:21 pm, 04 Jun 12

devils_advocate said :

Nutritional russian roulette?

Please.

In Russian Roulette the potential outcome is dying.

In this, the potential outcome is some children getting a slightly sub-optimal choice of meals, or having to bring them from home if there is no canteen.

To equate the risk of parents having to take responsibility for their children’s diets with the risk of death is just emotive and disingenuous.

Unless they are putting rat poison in every sixth pie?

#6
MrMagoo3:25 pm, 04 Jun 12

devils_advocate said :

To equate the risk of parents having to take responsibility for their children’s diets with the risk of death is just emotive and disingenuous.

Um Parents ARE responsible for their Childrens diets – its called parenting you numpty

#7
poetix3:28 pm, 04 Jun 12

AG Canberra said :

The arrangement at our primary school works well. Basically healthy food available all the time. Red food day a few times a term. .

What is red food day? Tomatoes and Redskins (if they’re still called that) and buckets of blood?

And yes, we all know a tomato is a fruit, before anyone points that out again!

#8
devils_advocate3:29 pm, 04 Jun 12

Let’s just get it over with and let them have poker machines in school canteens.

They can offer cheap counter meals, sponsor a local sports team, and we can all pretend the tokenistic good balances out the harm.

#9
Thumper3:37 pm, 04 Jun 12

devils_advocate said :

Let’s just get it over with and let them have poker machines in school canteens.

They can offer cheap counter meals, sponsor a local sports team, and we can all pretend the tokenistic good balances out the harm.

It is the only way.

#10
p13:42 pm, 04 Jun 12

poetix said :

What is red food day?

Black bread and vodka.

#11
Jivrashia3:53 pm, 04 Jun 12

poetix said :

What is red food day?

(spoken like the narrator on SBS Iron Chef)
If memory serves me correctly… children are taught about food by grouping them in colours.
Red – meat items
Yellow – Beans and nuts
Green – Leafy vegetables
White – Carbohydrate such as bread and rice
…and so on.
Children are taught to maintain a balanced diet by ensuring they get to eat a bit of each ‘colour’.

#12
wildturkeycanoe4:09 pm, 04 Jun 12

Well, for kids to get a healthy choice of foods, the problem we need to overcome is that of catering for the minority. Can’t have nuts, can’t have milk, can’t have eggs, can’t have seafood, can’t have wheat, can’t have soy, etc. Because of only a handful of kids with life-threatening conditions, everyone [and I mean everyone in Australian schools] must sacrifice their healthy diets for appropriate fare. Do you know how difficult it is to pack a lunch for your kids, when you have to consider the ingredients of everything you spread on their bread, everything in the wrapped snack and everything in their fruit box? This is hard enough without trying to get around their own fussiness but when the allergo-friendly alternatives aren’t much scratch and cost a bundle more, all you witness is them getting thinner and unhealthier because they aren’t eating properly. Why does one kid’s problem become everyone’s problem? I still wonder do they have nut allergies in India, Thailand or anywhere that has sate as a staple diet.

#13
Bad Seed4:53 pm, 04 Jun 12

poetix said :

AG Canberra said :

The arrangement at our primary school works well. Basically healthy food available all the time. Red food day a few times a term. .

What is red food day? Tomatoes and Redskins (if they’re still called that) and buckets of blood?

I think AG’s kids and mine go to the same school! Red Food Day follows the traffic light system ie Green foods (not literally green) can be eaten often (most fruits and veges), yellow foods eaten in moderation eg breads, meats etc and red foods are occasional foods eg fried chicken, meat pies etc.

Our school has red food days twice a term and they are generally themed (Italian, Chinese, footy finals etc and usually involve something less healthy but very appealing and they are prices a bit higher than usual but 90% of the kids order them so it serves as a bit of a fund raiser for the canteen

#14
devils_advocate5:20 pm, 04 Jun 12

MrMagoo said :

devils_advocate said :

To equate the risk of parents having to take responsibility for their children’s diets with the risk of death is just emotive and disingenuous.

Um Parents ARE responsible for their Childrens diets – its called parenting you numpty

LOL, I’m the numpty. The ironing is delicious.

To translate, I said:

“asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s diet is not a bad thing, at least not as bad as giving them a gun with a randomly placed bullet and having them take turns pulling the trigger.”

Clearly you never had to bother with school lunches past about year 6.

#15
poetix5:23 pm, 04 Jun 12

p1 said :

poetix said :

What is red food day?

Black bread and vodka.

Any canteen that serves vodka is my sort of Comintern. Bread I can take or leave.

#16
puggy7:57 pm, 04 Jun 12

sudo make me a sandwich

#17
puggy7:59 pm, 04 Jun 12

Oh, and…

devils_advocate said :

The ironing is delicious.

but some kids are allergic to it (and most husbands apparently).

#18
Evil_Kitten9:14 pm, 04 Jun 12

That pie looks delicious.

#19
EvanJames9:27 pm, 04 Jun 12

Evil_Kitten said :

That pie looks delicious.

My oath. I’ve had dinner, but that picture is making me drool. I seldom had money for the tuckshop at school, but when I did, it was sausage rolls, cheese twisties, chocolate paddle pops and sliced fruit bread with pink icing and that wonderful tuckshop butter.

#20
I-filed9:33 pm, 04 Jun 12

poetix said :

p1 said :

poetix said :

What is red food day?

Black bread and vodka.

Any canteen that serves vodka is my sort of Comintern. Bread I can take or leave.

I recall that the little fundraising cookbook put out by Year 10 Canberra Girls Grammar in I think 1986 included several excellent cocktail recipes …

#21
EvanJames11:09 pm, 04 Jun 12

p1 said :

poetix said :

What is red food day?

Black bread and vodka.

And you don’t eat the black bread, you inhale it. Swig of vodka (nostrovia!) and then a big snuffle at the black bread, and the vodka doesn’t knock you backwards. I have no idea who first discovered this, or how he did it. But it works.

#22
screaming banshee6:58 am, 05 Jun 12

Nice use of random caps in the linked menu, and always being keen to try new things I wouldn’t mind having a crack at the snitzel or rissotto.

#23
Deref8:03 am, 05 Jun 12

EvanJames said :

Evil_Kitten said :

That pie looks delicious.

My oath. I’ve had dinner, but that picture is making me drool. I seldom had money for the tuckshop at school, but when I did, it was sausage rolls, cheese twisties, chocolate paddle pops and sliced fruit bread with pink icing and that wonderful tuckshop butter.

This brings back fond memories of pineapple doughnuts at my school tuckshop. Jezuz they were good. I don’t think I’ve seen them since.

#24
MrMagoo9:22 am, 05 Jun 12

devils_advocate said :

MrMagoo said :

devils_advocate said :

To equate the risk of parents having to take responsibility for their children’s diets with the risk of death is just emotive and disingenuous.

Um Parents ARE responsible for their Childrens diets – its called parenting you numpty

LOL, I’m the numpty. The ironing is delicious.

To translate, I said:

“asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s diet is not a bad thing, at least not as bad as giving them a gun with a randomly placed bullet and having them take turns pulling the trigger.”

Clearly you never had to bother with school lunches past about year 6.

Only everyday Devil, only everyday. I was a member of a school P&C and rallied against the school canteen on the basis that food would be expensive and the options limited. Save for the fact that the P&C Assoc are scare mongering somewhat with the use of Russian Roulette, the fact remains that parents do have to take time to ensure their kids are eating healthy at lunchtime and throughout the day. i battle I wage everyday with the 8 and 5 year old.

#25
JessP4:25 pm, 05 Jun 12

Gawd sake. Give them pies and sauce, hot dogs, ships and soft drinks. You food police types are no fun.

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