State School tuckshops are eliminating over 20 items on their menus including potato chips, iced buns and muffins and reducing products in sizes due to the re-evaluation of the Smart Choices.
The Department of Education and Training reevaluated the Smart Choices Ready Reckoner – Healthy Food and Drink Supply Strategy for Queensland Schools in 2015 and as a result has made many changes to their green, amber and red classifications.
The Smart Choices Evaluation Report can be found here.
These changes were scheduled to be implemented at the start of Term 3 this year however after discussions between relevant associations and the Department of Education and Training, a new deadline was agreed for Term 1, 2017.
CEO of Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Association, Kevin Goodworth is satisfied with the outcome of the extended date and said this will help schools be better prepared and will avoid any cost revenues that could have been lost.
“Some of our P&C’s need time to readjust their menus, to work down stock that they may already be holding and to explain some of the changes.”
Mr Goodworth said there has been many discussions on the minor details within the changes of the Smart Choices Ready Reckoner such as what drinks are allowed to be sold.
“For instance, I know you are to sell flavoured milk but you’re not allowed to put Milo into a glass of milk because it is considered to be a new additive so there are detailed stuff like that needs work.”
Mr Goodworth said the biggest issue that some P&Cs are facing is that schools are situated near large shopping centres that have food courts where students tend to purchase unhealthy fast foods.
“We need our menus to be healthy and appetizing and attractive to students so that they do make a smart choice and not to simply wonder off to fast food outlets,” he said.
The biggest change in the Reckoner is limiting the amount of added sugar according to The Queensland Association of School Tuckshops client services manager, Trent Ballard.
“We’re converting something from a less healthy choice that are now no longer able to be served to something that can be served.”
“You can’t just take things off the menu, you have to restructure the menus to make them healthier as well so that the kids still want to purchase something from them,” Mr Ballard said.
Mr Ballard said QAST are identifying suitable menu items that can be swapped in order to comply with the new guidelines.
“If the tuckshop is currently serving some chicken nuggets then we might give them some ideas around how to put something together like a chicken wrap.”
“We need to encourage the menus to be more meal dominated and fewer meals so that the menus are made fresh and they can be made with quality ingredients on site.”
Editor and owner of Brisbane Kids, Ngaire Stirling said she does not rely on tuckshops to educate her children about healthy food choices.
“If the government thinks that restricting food choices in the tuckshop will educate children about healthy eating, they are wrong.”
“They need to find an ongoing place within the curriculum (not just in prep) to educate children about food choices, cooking, shopping, nutrition etc. We are raising future adults, leaders and parents, we need to educate them to make the right choices.”
Mrs Stirling uses tuckshop as a treat for her son as well as teaching him independence in buying his own food.
Mrs Stirling posted her views on the changes in the Smart Choices to her Brisbane Kids Facebook account and received positive replies from the public.
Many parents agree with Brisbane Kids post and have left comments focusing on the new “strict” changes and letting parents make decisions for their own children’s diets.
“I am not suggesting schools shouldn’t offer healthy choices they should offer a variety and let parents decide.”
“Restricting tuckshop choices will not alter the contents of a lunchbox and is not a logical way of helping parents (or children) to make better food choices in the long term,” she said.
UQ lecturer and nutritionist,Doctor Lisa Schubert is in support of the Smart Choices Ready Reckoner but said the responsibility should be shared among the environments that influence students.
“I think the strategy has been a really powerful tool in providing guidance to schools and their canteens to get some uniformity around the sort of things that children are offered in public school environment.”
Dr Schubert said even though the tuckshops are getting stricter, there are still sweet foods that are making it into school classrooms.
“Some teachers still have lolly jars for rewarding good behaviour or cakes filled with icing is allowed in classrooms for birthdays,” she said.
“You really need a whole of school approach to make sure that action at one level like the canteen policy doesn’t have unintentional consequences as part of the school.”
According to Dr Schubert, schools can be either a positive or negative force as students have 13 years of exposure within the tuckshop and the curriculum learned in class.
“More and more schools are thinking about food literacy and some even have edible gardens or seventy alexanders in the kitchen where they’re growing food,” she said.
“So you’re getting young people from a young age to think about where the food is coming from and I think that is all very positive.”
Dr Schubert also said there are many other factors in a student’s life that can determine whether they will pick healthy eating or not.
If there is any troubleshoot with the recordings, please click on this link: https://soundcloud.com/jocelyn-garcia-315992106/sets/dr-lisa-schubert
“The changes to the Ready Reckoner have been made to more closely align with recommendations of the National Healthy Schools Canteen Guidelines and the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines,” a spokesman of the Department of Education said.
The Department of Education and Training said schools play an important role in promoting healthy eating practices in the school setting and, as indicated on their website, also support student participation in quality physical activity.
“A healthy diet in young people can improve behaviours critical to educational performance at school and provides a foundation for good health in adulthood,” a spokesperson for the Department of Education and Training said.
Suppliers for school tuckshops may have difficulty in catering for the new guidelines or losing revenue over their products being eliminated from menus but some say it is still too soon to tell.
Companies such as Red Rock Deli and Fantastic were unable to comment at this point in time and still awaiting comment from Sanitarium for their Up&Go products.
The changes to the Smart Choices Ready Reckoner will commence in January, 2017 ready for Term 1.
Written by Jocelyn Garcia