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Getting tough on school canteens

By Emily Morris - 26 August 2014 29


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
2604 10:48 pm 26 Aug 14

It seems that not even the humble primary school canteen can hide from Labor’s ridiculous habit of viewing everything as a problem that needs to be fixed.

Oddly enough, when I went to primary school in the 1980s, our school canteen sold soft drinks, jam donuts and vanilla slices every day of the school year. And yet on the whole, we kids were much skinnier than the primary school kids of today.

Here’s a crazy idea: why doesn’t the ACT Government try spending a bit less? No light rail or primary schools with fewer than 200 students each would be a good start. If the government stopped putting up our rates and car registration etc by 10% per year, every year, and took some steps to reduce the cost of living, parents might actually be able to work a little bit less. Then they might have time to prepare school lunches for their children, and walk with their children to school, and do some outdoor activities with them on weekends.

briggles 10:28 pm 26 Aug 14

Monash primary has a green, amber, red system that helps kids learn to make healthy choices. I think this is a step towards empowering children to make their own healthy decisions. Parents can’t choose the foods their kids will eat forever.
Ps. Those chocolate fundraisers don’t bring much cash in for the schools, just a great way for companies to get rid of short dated stock…

Maya123 10:04 pm 26 Aug 14

Canteens are for parents who can’t be bothered to make their child’s lunch, for what ever reason. Canteens have been around a long time. In my day the choices were fewer; sandwiches, pies and sausage rolls, plus chips and cakes. Not very healthy. It was either bring your own lunch, or buy from the canteen. Children were rarely allowed to leave the school grounds, and if we did we needed to ask permission, regardless of the age of the child, even if 17 or 18 years old. We didn’t leave very often, because cafe food was more expensive than the canteen, and most of us weren’t given enough money for this.
The solution is for parents to give their children packed lunches and no money to spend.

Sandman 9:52 pm 26 Aug 14

A_Cog said :

Telopea Park canteen menu is online:

Of 17 “snacks”, 13 are pure junk.

Of the 17 “hot meals”, ALL of them, yep, 100%, are trash.

I’m keen to hear what you’d put on the menu if you consider a vegi or chicken burger with lettuce and mayo “trash”. I’m not sure what you expect from a bunch of volunteer mums(and dads) in a very basic kitchen with limited time while still offering some choice to the spoilt brats of the 21st Century.

I finished high school in 1997 and my school never had fizzy drinks. Hot meals were your standard pies,sausage rolls, mini pizzas and that was about it. There was no real healthy sandwiches then either. The idea was that canteen food was supposed to be a treat, not a parental substitute.

gooterz 8:54 pm 26 Aug 14

Madam Cholet said :

It’s ridiculous that canteens feel they can only make money from junk type food.

Name a food that a canteen can sell that’s hot and can’t be purchased from home for a cheaper price?

Canteens aren’t meant to replace a packed lunch and never have been, they’re about giving the option of a hot lunch on a cold day. A cold ice cream on a hot day. A softdrink before a game of footy.

If they can only give cold food they’re no longer worth the money and go belly up.

gooterz 8:51 pm 26 Aug 14

I’m fairly sure most unis have banned plastic water containers because they’re just selling water which comes from a water bottle. The point is don’t forget your bottle and save some petrol.

I used to eat all kinds of junk as a kid but I was also more active than the kids these days. Kids are much more active than adults and can pretty much eat whatever they like and still be healthy. As long as not every meal lacks vegetables.

The notion of eating fat makes you fat is about as accurate to little kids as eating lots of carrots will make you a ranga. Sure there are ranga’s but correlation doesn’t imply causation.

If children don’t learn to eat in moderation and learn to eat healthy foods when do they learn? In their rebellious teens? as stressed adults?

Is there also an approved reading list for what the little ones can read at lunchtime? particular religions that promote better health over others?

Are we also going to ban bacon, meat on Fridays, beef.

Fruits are full of sugars, are we also going to ban them too?

How long before the act government imposes a ban processed food at shops like they ‘banned’ plastic bags. Perhaps we could have a ration system, where we get food stamps to be able to buy the foods that actually taste good.

The biggest thing that makes kids fat is eating the wrong sized meals. are we also going to weigh the kids before and after lunch so we can identify the offenders?

Madam Cholet 6:52 pm 26 Aug 14

Our primary school at Isabella has a no chocolate selling policy I believe and instead selling things like boxes of cherries straight from the producer in Young when they become available every year. I think last time they sold 40 boxes at $35.

It’s ridiculous that canteens feel they can only make money from junk type food. My son is only 6 and he takes a packed lunch as there is no canteen. He has fruit, sarnie, cheese, yoghurt etc. sometimes a treat, but actually he thinks that having a few party size sausage rolls once in a blue moon or one teeny tiny chocolate egg is a treat, so maybe he’s mercifully sheltered when it comes to needing a constant stream of junk. Others might think that I’m mean, but if it means no sugary shit in my trolley then so much the better. At the age of 6 he actually knows the value of proper nutritious food, particularly as they include this in their curriculum.

It’s the same at kids parties. Why parents think kids haven’t enjoyed themselves unless they are shovelling 10 types of cr$p into there mouths beats me.

agent_clone 6:37 pm 26 Aug 14

Tetranitrate said :

I’m so sorry OP, giving children “carob buds” as a treat, carob anything really, ought to be be considered a form of child abuse.

Aside from lacking caffiene, Carob buds are not healthier than chocolate anyway.

My take on this would be if you don’t want your kids to eat the canteen food then don’t give them the money to buy stuff from there…

Tetranitrate 5:54 pm 26 Aug 14

I’m so sorry OP, giving children “carob buds” as a treat, carob anything really, ought to be be considered a form of child abuse.

Rangi 4:23 pm 26 Aug 14

Oh no, a chocolate drive, the director of that preschool Is obviously worse than Hitler. Just because your daughter brings home a box of chocolate frogs it doesn’t mean she has to set them all! Good opportunity to teach self control by letting her have one and selling the rest, rather than panicking and getting all worked Upgrade required over it.

A_Cog 3:34 pm 26 Aug 14

Telopea Park canteen menu is online:

Of 17 “snacks”, 13 are pure junk.

Of the 17 “hot meals”, ALL of them, yep, 100%, are trash.

Sure, I’m happy to make healthy school lunches – it’s what my mum used to do, and I’m more than happy for that to be the way we do it now so my kids don’t end up as fat little tubbies, but do I REALLY need to be some all-seeing Eye of Sauron even when my kids are at school, or can someone PLEASE not be a douche with the school canteen and remove all that junk?

Maya123 3:17 pm 26 Aug 14

Grrrr said :

Sorry to hear that uni isn’t able to offer you a cup and a tap..

Same thought crossed my mind. However many people appear to think water only comes in bottles. Don’t you know it’s far too inconvenient to go to a tap, turn it on and fill a glass/cup! I volunteer somewhere and I have noticed this weird attitude. There is a choice of tap temperature water or cooled water in a real glass, but many people ignore those and take a plastic bottle of water. I am only a volunteer there and so have no say in ordering, but if I did, I would NOT have bottled water available. People can use a glass and turn a tap on.

Grrrr 1:42 pm 26 Aug 14

Sugars are nutrients, as are fats.

Of course a diet should be balanced, but getting basic terminology wrong in the opening paragraph makes me wonder how much of what follows is also wrong.

Sorry to hear that uni isn’t able to offer you a cup and a tap..

FHW 1:08 pm 26 Aug 14

I agree. This should have happened long ago.

Encouraging children to sell chocolate in schools reminds me of an article many years ago about Chinese children making fireworks in the classroom for an hour or so before school. What are our priorities here?

Rollersk8r 12:51 pm 26 Aug 14

I completely agree. Every event at my daughter’s school has some kind of a junk food angle. They literally have an annual event called Lolly Day. The canteen menu is not significantly different to mine of 30 years ago.

However, I do appreciate school canteens do it very tough. It’s mission impossible to provide 100% fresh and healthy options, which kids actually want to eat, on a very limited budget; especially when many school canteens only operate a few days a week…

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