More support needed for healthy eating

Flinders University researcher Claire Drummond has called on the South Australian Government to provide a greater level of support if the newly implemented healthy eating guidelines for school canteens are to be successful.

A three-year study by Dr Drummond has revealed the absence of sufficient financial and organisational assistance by the State Government has made it increasingly difficult for primary and high schools to run a sustainable healthy tuck shop.

“Despite Premier Rann pushing for healthy eating programs to be introduced in school canteens – and the new guidelines are a clear example of that – there has been a limited long-term commitment from the StateGovernment to ensure these programs are both sustainable and profitable once implemented,” Dr Drummond, from the University’s Department of Paramedic and Social Health Sciences, said.

“Many schools that want to implement the state canteen guidelines are finding that they have little direction as to the steps they need to take to set the wheels in motion. This needs to change.”

She presented her findings at the National Health Promoting Schools Conference at the National Wine Centre, Dr Drummond said healthy canteen menus should be afforded the same level of importance as other health-oriented school policies, such as wearing hats and sunscreen in order to play outside.

“The implementation of healthy eating guidelines is a solid initial step, but more needs to be done to ensure these measures become uniform across the State,” she said.

Aside from Government support, Dr Drummond said a lack of assistance from parent volunteers as well as the absence of an adequate, modern facility also presented obstacles for schools wanting to establish a viable healthy canteen.

“Establishing a healthy canteen is both time consuming and costly for the schools that do it, therefore it is virtually impossible to do without the support of volunteers,” she said.

“Many canteens are also housed in small, old and cramped rooms which are not conducive to creating healthy meal alternatives.”

“For many schools it is easier to sell pre-prepared foods such as pizzas, pies and pasties, which are easy to prepare and can be on sold with limited assistance in the canteen.”

Establishing a best model practice for sustainable healthy school canteens will be the focus of a day-long symposium coordinated by Dr Drummond, to be held at Flinders University on Saturday, April 5.

Experts from around Australia and across the globe will present their ideas and findings at the event, including Professor Derek Colquhoun and Jo Pike from Hull University, who worked on the Healthy Food For Kids campaign Chaired by former Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, in the United Kingdom.

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