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Getting tough on school canteens

By Emily Morris 26 August 2014 29

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I was living in the UK when Jamie Oliver started his campaign against school lunches – to remove ‘turkey twizzlers’ (I was always a bit afraid to ask what these were) and other nutrient free items from canteens and replace them with good, healthy (real) food.

This was at least 5 years ago. So, I was kind of surprised to hear that the ACT Government had banned sugary drinks (among other things) from school canteens and decided to colour code foods to signal whether they were suitable for sale to children.

Really? We hadn’t already done this? I heard an interview on 666 last week where they were talking to someone from the P&C Association who was talking about the disadvantages to these rules and saying that if the items are available off site, the kids will just travel to pick them up. Primarily the issue was financial and the implications these bans would have on money raising.

I must confess to being somewhat surprised recently at a fundraising chocolate sale at my daughters Pre School. I haven’t been in an office environment for a few years so hadn’t really come across them before, but from what I could tell, chocolate fundraisers are everywhere and I can see why – they raise loads of cash. But, it’s a bit hard to tell the kids we shouldn’t eat too much chocolate and sugary foods and then come home with a massive box of big chocolate frogs to sell off.

As far as the canteen bans go, I am personally pretty pleased and kind of impressed that the ACT Government has put its foot down over it. When Katy Gallagher was being challenged during the 666 interview she was unapologetic, saying that there had already been years passed in talking about it and questioning what damage would be done by leaving it any longer.

It is also strange though that at Uni the other day I asked for a water with my sandwich (sadly I am not often so conscientious in my ordering but let’s go with it for now) only to be told they didn’t sell it. They could give me flavoured water, sparkling water, juice or soft drink, but not water as it had been decided to take it off the menu in favour of the environment. Great for the environment. But, a bit sh*t if you’ve forgotten your water bottle and certainly not in keeping with the whole healthy consumption messaging.

I remember as a teenager myself (some 20+ years ago now) back in High School and one of the great excitements of moving to High School was the availability of ‘junk food’ in the canteen. We’d gone from carob buds and apricot bars as our big treat at Primary school to soft drink and vanilla slice in High School.

Good parenting is one thing. My mum would send me into school with cheese and lettuce sandwiches on whole grain and we were never allowed fizzy drinks or junk food at home. And yet, if I could scrape up the $1.20 for a vanilla slice, that baby was mine!

All this aside, how much do these foods impact our kids ability to concentrate and learn? How alive do you feel after a lunch high in fat and sugar? Fancy practicing a bit of long division?

Or do we need to be teaching our kids to resist these temptations early on so they can navigate their own choices once out in the big wide world where fizzy drinks are on sale, with a side order of fries and a chocolate bar?

What’s Your opinion?


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29 Responses to
Getting tough on school canteens
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Diggety 3:10 am 28 Aug 14

Emily, if every other mother had this problem it would be solved.

gooterz 7:09 pm 27 Aug 14

justin heywood said :

rosscoact said :

It’s hardly surprising that we have world championship levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country.

Every time somebody tries to do something about it they get slammed.

Very true, and actually doing something about it would take something much more radical than anything we’ve tried so far. Reducing McDonalds ads during kids TV time is a token, but most kids are already accustomed to sweetened and over-processed everything long before they learn what a Big Mac is.

Not sure there is any simple solution for this one, unless science can create healthy food that tastes as good as the unhealthy stuff..

Doesn’t the problem solve itself?
If not its not really a problem then?

Perhaps everyone should convert to being a Muslim so they can learn moderation and lose weight during Ramadan?

Where is the evidence to show that taking away all unhealthy food in primary school leads to healthy adults that make healthy choices as adults.?

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/early-lunch-curbs-unruly-schoolyard-behaviour/story-e6frg6n6-1226499973065
“Littlehampton Primary School principal Jenny Lewis said the school had shortened its lunch break from 40 to 30 minutes and students often ate their main meal at 11am.”

Social engineering is just a huge waste of time. Hasn’t anyone noticed that the break times for children has rapidly decreased form the usual 30 minute recess and 1 hour lunch.

Now kids are lucky to get an hour a day with little sport.

Everyone is quick to blame the canteen but what % of fat kids don’t use the canteen?

The other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of larger people I went to school with are no longer fat. Bulling and lack of participation has taught them to eat healthy. Where as the work-a-holics are now the fat ones.

Unless there is evidence of effect of any of these policies its just a waste of time.

justin heywood 5:36 pm 27 Aug 14

rosscoact said :

It’s hardly surprising that we have world championship levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country.

Every time somebody tries to do something about it they get slammed.

Very true, and actually doing something about it would take something much more radical than anything we’ve tried so far. Reducing McDonalds ads during kids TV time is a token, but most kids are already accustomed to sweetened and over-processed everything long before they learn what a Big Mac is.

Not sure there is any simple solution for this one, unless science can create healthy food that tastes as good as the unhealthy stuff..

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 4:13 pm 27 Aug 14

arescarti42 said :

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

As a kid I ate white bread, had full sugar cordial, sausages, occasional lollies and chocolate. I also ate cereal for breakfast and vegetables at dinner. Fruit for snacks.

The difference is that as kids we ran around. A lot. And climbed and jumped and wrestled and kicked the football. We would spend at least a couple of hours a day engaged in fairly steady physical activity. And very few kids were fat.

I saw plenty of kids at the food court yesterday afternoon who looked chubby, weak and pasty. Perhaps our parenting styles are more to blame than the food the canteen sells?

Lack of physical activity is no doubt a contributor to obesity in children, but as any nutritionist/dietician will tell you, you can’t outrun a bad diet.

The bottom line is kids are fat because they’re eating too many calories, and that’s probably influenced by their parents. I think it’s no coincidence that fat kids usually have fat parents.

True. I guess that although we had ‘full sugar’ and ‘full fat’ versions of foods, the majority of what we ate was simple and fresh, and treats were not a daily thing.

Eating too many calories is one thing, not taking lots of exercise contributes to strength and health is another. As kids, you are supposed to be running off energy.

justsomeaussie 3:29 pm 27 Aug 14

Schools in 3rd world countries often provide meals because it’s the only decent meals that children can provide. Citing things like “Fat is how your body protects itself from poisoning, if you eat cr#p you get fat” only shows you to be scientifically illiterate.
I think we can all agree that that it should be obvious for schools to provide “healthy” meals, what’s healthy to you isn’t healthy to someone else.

If you can’t make three sandwiches, get three snacks and drinks for your children well inside of one hour then you are doing something wrong.

Perhaps people need to revisit their parenting techniques and time management skills before asking for a nanny state to look after and feed their children.

Nanouk 1:59 pm 27 Aug 14

If you have been shocked that they wouldn’t want to *sell* water to you, imagine if you were me: in my country, in every place where they sell food or drinks, they have to (by law) give water to whoever ask. Not sell: give. (of course it’s tap water, but still…)

I am also shocked that there is NO proper canteen in Australia. I mean, what you call “canteen” is not a real canteen for me, it’s just a place where you buy food, it is not better than going to a shop to buy your food (except that they do re-heat sausage rolls and other stuff like that, which at least is something hot in winter phewww!). Where I come from, there is a canteen in each school: that’s a big room where children go and sit together, and there is a cook (or more than one) who has prepared ONE proper meal for everyone (of course they catter for allergy and other food requirements too!). Children have to sit at a table, go figure! They have to use a fork and a knife, they have a glass of water, they have an entree, a warm meal and a dessert. All of that for a very cheap price (invoiced to parents monthly or so), as all of us mums know because when you cook a healthy big meal for everyone, then it’s much cheaper than buying industrial stuff. Imagine that: fom birth to adulthood, children are used to sit at a table, eat a proper meal, take their time, discover different food ever day, share that moment with their friends (with no social differences with children whose parents can’t afford such and such thing…) + parents don’t feel bad not having time to prepare a healthy lunch box, because you know your children will have a much better lunch that whatever you could have put in the lunch box.

(Of course, that does require that parents forget the idea that their children should choose what they eat. No they shouldn’t IMHO…)

Even though I love Australia, the canteen topic is a real problem for me. It would make sense to me if food education was part of what our children learn at school. Unfortunately that’s quite the opposite…

On a different topic, it’s funny to see all your answers with big statements like “obesity comes from lack of sport / too big meal / junk food / slacking parents / whatever-you-want”. You know what, obesity comes from poverty in industrial countries (in poor countries, when you are poorer than everyone else you just starve… not in Australia…). Fat is how your body protects itself from poisoning, if you eat cr#p you get fat. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043276010000238

And please stop especially the “too lazy parents”… If you were preparing your children lunch boxes + having to take care of everything else + sometimes having a paid job in addition, you would know that it’s quite a challenge and you would certainly not write that. Having three children of my own, I spend an hour every morning doing their lunch boxes. While you are sipping your coffee and getting a nice shower, mothers are running like crazy to get everything done on time.

Maya123 11:40 am 27 Aug 14

John Moulis said :

When I was at Pearce Primary School in 1970/71 we had hot dog day once a month. At Melrose High we had pies, sausage rolls, pasties, custard pies as well as Sunny Boys and Glugs. At Phillip College we had the same. Today I do bodybuilding and swimming each day after taking it up whilst at school. Yep, no doubt about it – junk food at school canteens causes all sorts of health problems in later life!

One person’s example is hardly proof. Plus many children don’t go on to doing regular exercise. They leave school under exercised, overfed on the wrong food, and they think this is normal, and it’s all downhill from there.

justsomeaussie 11:37 am 27 Aug 14

The primary argument on here appears to be:

“I’m too lazy to make my children a healthy lunch so the school should be forced to”

rosscoact 11:06 am 27 Aug 14

gooterz said :

rosscoact said :

It’s hardly surprising that we have world championship levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in this country.

Every time somebody tries to do something about it they get slammed.

Your post is proof that people expect others to fix family issues.
This is more of a problem than a kid having a sausage roll for lunch

That is an illogical inference. Where did I say that I expected others to fix family issues and that it was only about having a kid eat a sausage roll?

Encouraging children to eat junk food by having it as the majority of food served at school canteens is inarguably part of the problem.

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