School tuckshop menus guided by state regulations with focus on healthy eating

School tuckshop menus guided by state regulations with focus on healthy eating

With one in four Australian children classified as overweight or obese and an Australian state limiting the amount of ham sold in schools, what’s on offer at the tuckshop is again in the spotlight.

But how much do you know about what your school canteen sells and who decides what’s on the menu?

Do school tuckshops only sell healthy food now?

Not quite, which is partly why some groups are calling for more action.

What is sold in state school tuckshops or canteens is governed, or at least guided, by policies set out by state and territory government departments.

Queensland’s is called Smart Choices and is run by the state’s education department.

In New South Wales it’s the Healthy School Canteen Strategy run by NSW Health and South Australia employs the Right Bite Food and Drink Supply Standards developed by its department for education.

Food prepared in a Brisbane school tuckshop

Healthy foods in the green category are supposed to make up the majority of school tuckshop menus.(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

What’s central to them all is a “traffic light” system that classifies foods and drinks into green, amber and red categories.

According to most policies, red items like pies, pizzas and pastries should only be supplied twice per school term.

Amber items like burgers, muffins and lasagne shouldn’t dominate menus, and green items like fresh fruit, vegetables and reduced fat dairy products should make up most items available.

Why are school tuckshops in the spotlight?

Debate about healthy eating at school often flares up in term 1, but this year it’s been helped along by Western Australia’s review of its traffic light system which has resulted in ham being shifted into a new red category.

South Australia’s education department last year reviewed its policy, and the Northern Territory government is in the middle of a similar review.

In Victoria, the education department sets out a list of clearly defined healthy-eating guidelines for schools to follow.

A state school tuckshop in Brisbane

Food and drinks sold in most school tuckshops falls into one of three health categories — red, amber or green.(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

The Queensland Association of School Tuckshops (QAST) said it’s time the Sunshine State’s policy, which was written in 2007 and updated in 2016 and 2020, was also reviewed.

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