Great outcomes can be achieved when programs and services work together.
Schools can make a big difference when it comes to creating a healthy eating environment. When children and young people eat well, they learn better, are more alert and are more likely to grow and develop to their full potential.
Darley Primary School, which is located 60 kilometres from Melbourne in the outer suburb of Bacchus Marsh understand the importance of this through their engagement with the School Breakfast Clubs Program, the Healthy Schools Achievement Program and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. These programs and services help schools to transform their food offerings, so students are surrounded with healthier food and drink options.
It is with this in mind that Darley Primary School has embraced healthy eating programs and services supported by the Victorian Government.
The Programs and Services Available to Schools
The Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS), delivered by Nutrition Australia, in partnership with the Victorian Government, supports community-based organisations to create and promote healthier food environments. HEAS provides free resources for promoting healthier food and drinks across the whole school food environment, including the canteen and food service, the classroom and broader school community.
HEAS supports schools to develop healthy eating policies, provide healthier food and drinks, integrate healthy eating activities into the curriculum and engage the wider school community to promote healthier choices. HEAS has been a valuable resource for Darley Primary School to make healthy changes within their school environment, in particular the school canteen menu.
The Healthy Schools Achievement Program is a free Victorian Government initiative, delivered by Cancer Council Victoria that supports schools to create healthier environments for children, staff and families. The Achievement Program takes a settings-based approach to health and wellbeing and has seven health priority areas, with accompanying benchmarks, for schools to work towards. Darley Primary School have been working on two of these priority areas, Healthy Eating and Oral Health, and Mental Health and Wellbeing.
The School Breakfast Clubs Program, supported by the Victorian Government and delivered by Foodbank Victoria, provides free and healthy food to 1,000 Victorian government schools, including Darley Primary School. The School Breakfast Clubs Program is helping Darley Primary School achieve their Healthy Schools Achievement Program benchmark, as it provides a range of ‘green rated’ or ‘Everyday’ menu items and offers students a safe place to interact with their peers and staff.
It cannot be overstated just how much of an impact these programs and services have within the school environment, helping students have the best chance at fulfilling their potential, both physically, emotionally, and academically.
Individually these programs and services offer valuable support to Victorian schools, however integrating all three ensures that children are provided every opportunity to both learn about and receive fresh healthy food.
Using The School Breakfast Clubs Program to increase student intake of healthy food, foster positive social interaction and improve nutrition literacy.
The School Breakfast Clubs Program fills bellies, but it also offers a space for students to socialise in the morning. Students from different year levels come together, share a meal and socialise with people that they may not normally interact with.
Wellbeing Officer at Darley Primary School, Cherie says that the Breakfast Club models positive social interaction, students regulate each other. The kids leave happy. In addition to what it provides the kids, it allows me as Wellbeing Officer to have very casual quick check in with almost 30 kids a day which I couldn’t normally do.”
Cherie has managed Breakfast Club for four years. During that time, she says, “the breakfast program was initially perceived as a service provided to those kids who don’t have breakfast. Now the younger kids come every day. It is now the norm for many students.”
Dale, Head of Health and Physical Education also highlighted the broader benefits of the School Breakfast Clubs Program, “I’m quite impressed that it’s not only the food, it’s the experience they get by actually eating and socialising with each other, it’s also learning to prepare and clean up after themselves. It’s the life lessons that everyone benefits from.”
In addition to the nutritious start and positive social interaction that Breakfast Club provides, students are also able to take advantage of the fresh fruit provided by the School Breakfast Clubs Program during their daily fruit break. During the fruit break teachers also educate students about nutrition and healthy eating.
Incorporating nutrition literacy into the daily fruit break is a practical way to educate students about the health benefits of fruit and vegetables.
Assistant Principal at Darley Primary School, Emma highlighted how having fruit available throughout the school has also given students the opportunity to take a break and self-regulate. “They might come to my office for a piece of fruit and share something that might be bothering them.”
Schools that provide healthy food throughout the day, as well as a safe and social environment for students to interact and enjoy a meal, means they are well on the way to being recognised for the Healthy Schools Achievement Program’s Healthy Eating and Oral Health, and Mental Health and Wellbeing health priority areas.
The Achievement Program also encourages schools to engage with their local school community to assist at Breakfast Club. If you would like to see how Breakfast Club can assist with achieving these benchmarks, please click here.
Using the traffic light system to choose healthier foods and drinks, and encourage discussion about healthy eating.
With the support of these programs and services, and the guidance provided by the Department of Education and Training (DET), School Canteens and Other School Food Services policy, Darley Primary School has been able to select and supply healthier food and drinks in the canteen and at Breakfast Club using the traffic light system. The traffic light system categorises foods and drinks as either GREEN (Everyday category), AMBER (Select carefully category) or RED (Occasionally category).
HEAS has been a valuable resource for Darley Primary School to make healthy changes within their school environment, in particular the school canteen menu. HEAS assists schools to provide and promote a variety of healthier foods and drinks, giving students the power to make healthy decisions. HEAS offers a wide range of services to help schools including:
- Food Checker – a free, online menu, recipe and product assessment tool providing instant feedback against the School Canteens and Other School Food Services policy
- Free resources – menu planning, food and drink ideas and recipes, implementing healthy eating activities into the curriculum, engaging the ‘whole of school’ community
- Training – free, online training to support you in ‘providing healthy foods and drinks in your school’
Dale also notes the effort that has gone into developing a healthy canteen, “Our Canteen Manager Ben is working with a farm to fork model and is committed to working with the kids to provide healthier choices”. With support from HEAS, Ben has used FoodChecker to assess and receive free advice on the school canteen menu.
The Achievement Program at Darley Primary School
Tameaka is a local Health Promotion Officer from Ballarat Community Health and has been supporting Darley Primary School in their work towards the Healthy Schools Achievement Program benchmarks for the last four years.
For two years they focused on healthy eating, “We found that for success it’s important to have that key person at the school really driving things. We started on healthy eating two years ago and it has taken time to engage parents and students. We’ve found that adding more healthier options rather than taking foods off the menu has worked well. We are just ensuring that new menu options meet the healthy eating criteria.”
The Healthy Schools Achievement Program also highlights parent involvement as an important step in creating a healthy school environment. Including parents or guardians in the big decisions, whether that’s through the transition of the canteen menu, assistance at Breakfast Club, or offering support to families outside of the school environment, will more likely result in healthy eating habits being adopted in the home. Darley Primary School are in the final stages of completing the Healthy Eating and Oral Health priority area. Tameaka emphasised that “the way they have engaged parents, staff and students has really made a big difference. It’s great to have the support of the whole school community. I think it is great that the canteen is now reflecting what kids are learning in the curriculum as well.”
Like Tameaka, there are many Health Promotion Officers throughout Victoria willing to assist schools in their effort towards being recognised as a healthy school. Health Promotion Officers are available to support schools who sign up to the Achievement Program. Their support varies and can range from providing guidance to schools who are looking to transition their canteen in accordance with DET School Canteens and Other School Food Services policy, through to providing recommendations to schools that can support them with achieving benchmarks set out by the
How to get involved
For schools who would like to take steps towards becoming a healthier school, we recommend you contact the Achievement Program team at Cancer Council Victoria. They will be able to connect you to a local Health Promotion Officer and provide you further information on ways your school can start working towards a healthier, more supportive environment for students, staff and families.
Or if you want to fast-track your schools’ efforts, why not start with the newly launched Vic Kids Eat Well. This exciting new state-wide movement is a partnership between the Achievement Program and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service. It aims to boost healthy food and drink options in the places children spend their time, including schools, out of school hours care, sports clubs, council operated facilities and more. It is designed to make healthy eating easier, more engaging and faster to implement. For more information visit https://www.vickidseatwell.health.vic.gov.au
We also recommend you visit the HEAS website. They have many resources that can assist you to provide and promote healthier foods and drinks in your school environment. You can also access an infographic from their website that provides an overview of all of the healthy eating and oral health services available to support schools with creating a healthy eating culture.
If you are interested in finding out more about the School Breakfast Clubs Program, head to the Foodbank Victoria website.