How Green is my Menu? (#118)
In the fight against childhood obesity, the school setting is key in helping children learn to make healthy food choices. A school’s role in delivering healthy eating messages can educate and influence the wider community.
However, the healthy eating message can be directly undermined by the food being sold to children on a daily basis. The Parents’ Jury worked with Monash University and VicHealth to review school canteen menus. The snapshot study was designed to ascertain whether schools are adhering to prescribed state and territory nutrition guidelines.
A fourth year Monash dietetics and nutrition student undertook a sample of 263 menus from across Australia (representing approximately 4% of all government schools). This work was undertaken under the supervision of Monash University, VicHealth and The Parents’ Jury.
Menus were found online and were from 2011 or 2012. This ensured they were current and subject to policy and guidelines.
To reflect Australian population levels and location, rural and metropolitan, primary and secondary schools were considered.
Each menu was analysed in accordance with relevant state guidelines and the traffic light system of food categorisation.
The study found a very low rate of compliance across the country, with the exception of Western Australia, which had more than double the rate of compliance than any other state or territory.
It is our belief and contention this can be attributed in part to government involvement in school nutrition. This is the only state to have a compliance system.
The results formed the basis of an advocacy campaign directed at governments across Australia.
· All government school canteen menus to contain over 60% green menu items.
· All government school canteen menus use a traffic light, front of pack food labelling system.
· Achieve this by requiring all government schools to work with canteen support services.