School canteens serving "red foods" that should not be sold

Some Illawarra school canteens are ignoring health guidelines and offering students soft drinks, ice blocks and cakes among their menu options.

Fizzy drinks, iced tea, iceblocks and iced cakes such as finger buns are among the offenders in tuck shops, all of which are listed as ‘‘red’’ foods that should not be sold at healthy canteens in the National Healthy School Canteens guidelines.

Sugar sweetened drinks that have more than 300 kilojoules have also been banned from sale in NSW school canteens since 2007.

Sausage rolls, chicken nuggets and muffins also pop up on school menus, but the guidelines only require schools to select these ‘‘amber’’ foods with care.

All schools offer healthier lunch choices, including salads, sandwiches, some homemade meals and fresh fruit.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said each school developed its menu based on student needs while following the guidelines.

‘‘Schools have been asked to provide only a limited number of amber foods and drinks, in small serving sizes, on the menu. They should not promote amber drinks over green drinks, such as water and low fat drinks.’’

‘‘School principals are required to review their canteen operations at least every two years.’’

She said resources, including health promotion officers, were available to help schools develop their canteen menus.

NSW opposition education spokesman Ryan Park said schools needed more support to ensure students ate well.

‘‘We need to make sure schools understand the guidelines and that canteens are not being used as cash cows to make up funding shortages, and thereby selling foods that are perhaps more popular but are not as healthy and nutritious for young people,’’ the Keira MP said.

‘‘We know that young people who have a healthy nutritious meal, particularly early in the day, are more likely to be alert and energetic throughout the school day, and that’s why it’s important wherever possible to make sure school canteens are as healthy as possible.’’

The department spokeswoman said a working group had been set up with the NSW Ministry of Health to review the NSW Canteen Strategy.


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