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

By Myles Peterson 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 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
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JessP 4:25 pm 05 Jun 12

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

MrMagoo 9:22 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.

Deref 8:03 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.

screaming banshee 6:58 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.

EvanJames 11:09 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.

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