Healthy School Canteen Strategy

Why we need a strategy for providing healthy food and drink in NSW schools

Health surveys show most Australian children need to make changes to their diet for their wellbeing, and to establish healthy eating practices in later years.

Their diets are low in nutritious food such as vegetables and dairy, so to maximise their health they need to eat less unhealthy food and drinks and replace these with healthy food and drinks from the five food groups.

In NSW, 22% of children aged 5–16 years were overweight or obese in 2015.

Healthy habits for life are set up in childhood – overweight children are more likely to go on to become overweight or obese adults, with an increased risk of serious chronic health problems.

It is a Premier's Priority to reduce childhood overweight and obesity by 5% by 2025.

With around half of all school students buying their lunch at school at least once a week, school canteens can contribute by supporting healthy eating through a revised Healthy School Canteen Strategy focused on increasing the availability and promotion of healthy food and drinks in schools.

The strategy is one of the Healthy Children Initiatives under the NSW Healthy Eating and Active Living Strategy 2013–2018.

The revised Healthy School Canteen Strategy

The NSW Department of Education and the NSW Ministry of Health, the Catholic Education Commission NSW and the Association of Independent Schools of NSW have all contributed to the strategy.

The revised strategy has been informed by a comprehensive evidence report and a consultation process that included canteen managers, school leaders, health professionals, the food industry, school students and parents to understand the barriers and enablers for increasing healthy food and drink choices in NSW school canteens.

Public schools will transition to the revised strategy over a three year period (2017 – 2019). Catholic and independent schools are also encouraged to participate in the strategy. The transition will be responsive to canteen operating arrangements, product availability, rural and remote locations and community and cultural expectations.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines and the national labelling system that provides Health Star Ratings (HSRs) on the front of packaged food and drinks forms the basis of the minimum food and drink criteria for the revised Healthy School Canteen Strategy. The new food and drink criteria replaces the traffic light system under the previous strategy.

Food and drink criteria

Target minimum benchmarks for all school canteens

Everyday food and drinks

Occasional food and drinks

At least ¾ of the menu.

No more than ¼ of the menu.

No Health Star Rating (HSR) cut-off.

Health Star Rating (HSR) of 3.5 stars and above.

Portion limits for flavoured milk, juice and ready-to-eat meals.

Portion limits for all Occasional food and drinks.

Display, favourably price, promote and advertise Everyday choices.

Occasional food and drinks not promoted at point of sale.

*Sugary drinks are not to be sold in NSW public schools.

Schools will be supported and encouraged to achieve higher benchmarks for healthy food and drink options in their canteens.

What's changed?

  • Two categories (Everyday and Occasional food and drinks) will replace the three traffic-light categories.
  • There will no longer be two ‘Red' food days per term. However, at the discretion of the principal a school may choose to invite the canteen to cater for a special event, such as a school fair, or school celebration. On such occasions, menu items can align with the school's plans enabling the school canteen to be fully integrated as part of the school celebration or special event.