Stories from a Tuckshop

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2020 was undoubtably a challenging year for tuckshops, so QAST hosted a virtual state-wide story telling event. We wanted to celebrate and acknowledge all Queensland tuckshops for the outstanding work tuckshop convenors and their staff did to support their school communities.

Stories from a Tuckshop celebrated the dedication, imagination and compassion of all the tuckshop convenors and their tuckshop teams who participated. Read their inspiring stories below!

Balmoral State High School

Convenor: Angela Owens

Balmoral State High School had a number of essential workers children remain at school; however the tuckshop was to remain closed to students. The challenge for Joanne and her tuckshop team was to come up with a way of providing food to those students. They decided making sandwiches and muffins that could be frozen and stored in the staff room, then toasted or heated in the microwave would be the best option, allowing teaching staff to provide food to students.

The school also had a number of parents who had lost their jobs and had no money for food. The Principal approached Angela and asked if there was any way the tuckshop team could help these families. After a few minutes of brainstorming Angela and her team started cooking up a storm, using whatever they had available in their freezer and fridge. They prepared spaghetti and meatballs, Greek salads, fruit salads and fruit which was distributed to around 50 families. The feeling of being able to help was overwhelming for this generous tuckshop team.

With the tuckshop closed Angela and her team did COVID online training and had time to rethink how they did things, how could they improve and work more efficiently. She found this time vital to making the changes to their processes to work safely. Distance stickers were place on the floor showing students where to stand and a new way of entering the tuckshop was devised. The school created a video and uploaded it to their social media page informing students and parents of the changes to tuckshop service, a great idea.

It has been a year of change for the tuckshop team at Balmoral State High School, doing things completely differently, from holding meetings on Zoom, wearing face masks, social distancing, hand sanitising and making sure communication lines remained open.


Cavendish Road State High School

Convenors: Roberta O’Malley and Madonna Jardine

“Wow, what a year 2020 has been. After being awarded QAST’s Tuckshop of the Year in 2019, we certainly came back to earth with a thud mid-term 1 when COVID-19 hit.”

Teamwork from the tuckshop staff and P&C Executive was key to working through this period. The priority was the safety of the tuckshop staff, students and school staff, with new systems put in place. Customer limits in the self serve tuckshop were enforced and sanitising became the norm. “Never has so much alcohol been through a school canteen”, said Roberta and Madonna.

During the tuckshop closure, the tuckshop team completed COVID-19 Safe courses so they would be informed and prepared when the school and tuckshop reopened. Group face timing a few times a week to keep in touch and to help lift each others spirits was important for the tuckshop team.

As soon as the school reopened, so did the tuckshop. Efficiency became their key word! The menu was modified to use the same ingredients in a number of different meals, which simplified the ordering and stock rotation process. They now use one chicken product in 12 different menu items… who knew chicken could be so versatile? The P&C introduced payment via student ID cards to minimise cash handling as well as free up time spent counting coins at the end of each day.

One of the positives to come out of reduced student numbers was the tuckshop teams ability to interact more with the students who were at school and to hear their ‘words of wisdom’. One senior student went into great detail to tell Roberta and Madonna why his usual spend had gone from $15 to $5, as losing his job meant he needed to make his savings last until he could return to work. Fortunately for this student and others the Cavendish Road State High School tuckshop team offer value for money.


Coombabah State High School

Convenor: Caralyn Christensen

Caralyn and the tuckshop team didn’t let COVID-19 beat them, life at school was just a little different.

The usual 1,300 students was reduced to 100 and it was a priority for Caralyn and her staff to make sure students and teaching staff felt safe. They also wanted to make sure the teaching staff who were ‘under the pump’ with online teaching had something fun to look forward to, so they introduced a theme day each Friday. The teachers were excited each week to find out what the theme was… High Tea saw the tuckshop team dress up in their ‘fancy clothes’ and serve sandwiches, scones, cakes, slices and an extensive variety of hot food. ‘Footy Friday’ was embraced by the entire school and everyone came dressed in their footy shirts. That day’s menu consisted of a pie or zucchini slice, served with chips, mash, gravy and mushy peas. Other theme days included ‘All-day Breakfast’ and ‘Hawaiian Friday’.

The low numbers of students also gave Caralyn and her staff the opportunity to catch up on paperwork that had been piling up. They were also able to help the uniform shop convenor reorganise the uniform shop and even assisted with some small renovation tasks in classrooms.

COVID saw the Coombabah State High School tuckshop team rally together to bring happiness to their school community.


Coombabah State School

Convenor: Jennifer Munro

“When it was first announced that lockdowns would be happening and schools would be switching to online learning, the mood in the tuckshop was pretty grim.”

Fortunately the P&C applied for and received JobKeeper for the tuckshop staff and the school asked them if they would remain open whilst there were students at school. The tuckshop team did not need to think twice, they were very happy to remain open providing a service to the small number of students in attendance.

The first day of home learning was a very sombre one at school. When the students were seated in the lunch area, it was noticed that quite a few were visibly upset. Querying a teacher, it was discovered that these students thought they were at school because they had COVID and their friends were at home so they wouldn’t catch it. That was hard for Jennifer and her colleagues to hear. So they set out to brighten up the day for these students, with milkshakes, fruit juice and watermelon provided at lunch breaks. Soon the students were talking about how their friends at home were jealous of the free treats!

Teaching students to social distance when visiting the tuckshop was a challenge, but the team found a fun way to encourage it. Lines were drawn outside the tuckshop, students encouraged to stand on these lines. When they reached the front they popped their money into a piggy bank, which the students thought funny.

Term two saw the challenges created by shortages and limits on many goods, so the tuckshop team set about reducing the menu to a bare minimum. Supermarket hopping to find items like rice and pasta became a common occurrence. Packaging items became rare and delivery drivers were met with cheers when they delivered paper bags.

Making any kind of profit at this time was not even a thought for the Jennifer and the P&C. It was more important to provide a service and helping hand where they could. Supporting their suppliers was also important, as many are local small businesses. Offering small items like bread and milk to staff and parents to purchase was a small way to help their local bakery.

“It was a privilege to provide our teachers with healthy, nutritious lunches and the support they showed our tuckshop was truly heartwarming”, said Jennifer.

One of the hardest days for Jennifer during this time was saying goodbye to her volunteers and not knowing when they would be able to return to the tuckshop. But, volunteers are now back and things are starting to return to normal for Coombabah State Primary School’s tuckshop team.


Currajong State School (Caterpillar Cafe)

Convenor: Deanne O’Neill

“Wow, what a crazy extreme year it has been at Currajong State School Caterpillar Cafe. Starting off the year with a bang then BAM along comes COVID-19.”

The tuckshop remained open to support staff and students of essential workers, with a small menu created to suit the small number of customers. Parents were extremely happy that the tuckshop was open, as it made their already stressful morning a lot easier.

To assist staff and parents further, Deanne created a number of take home meals that they could purchase, priced between $7 to $20. Meals offered included zucchini slice, lamb or chicken curry, stir fry, honey chicken, lasagne, beef noodles, shepherd’s pie, and beef stroganoff just to name a few. Not only did these meals provide an easy dinner for essential workers, they put cash in the P&C’s bank account.

Term 3 saw all students return to school and a record breaking term for the tuckshop, with takings 2 to 4 times their usual daily takings each day open. Deanne, her staff and volunteers have been run off their feet, much to their delight.

Emerald State High School (Bites Tuckshop)

Convenor: Ruth Kelly

The tuckshop team at Emerald State High School’s Bites Tuckshop produced the BITES COVID PLAN to ensure a safe food service was provided to students and school staff. Based on Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham… man oh man, it’s a good plan. To accompany their COVID Plan they also produced a video version… enjoy

Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School

Catering Manager: Lorie Robinson

“2020 – what a rat licker of a year!” Lorie’s wording, not ours!

“One of my big takes from this exercise is how adaptable my staff have been to the ever changing everything. I am so proud of them for taking on new duties and completely new ways of operating”.

It wasn’t a normal start to the year for Lorie and her staff. Being a boarding school, IGGS caters to many Chinese students. Two days after arriving at school for the new year, these students were quarantined in the boarding house for two weeks. A COVID plan was developed and everything possible done to support these students through a very stressful time. The IGGS team had to completely change the way they catered for the boarding students. The students went from making their own toast and helping themselves to the salad bar, to having everything served to them for every meal.

The canteen remained open to support the staff and students of essential workers and the boarding students. Fortunately most of Lorie’s staff retained their jobs, offering to work a few less hours or do jobs that they normally would not do. Pre-orders only were brought in and take-home meals for staff were offered. Supplies became difficult to secure with some suppliers cutting their staffing and delivery schedules.

Life is gradually returning to normal at IGGS and the team are looking forward to a well earned end of year break.

Kurwongbah State School

Convenor: Sandy Stirrat

Kurwongbah State School’s tuckshop initially closed for five weeks and when school recommenced the tuckshop service was reduced to one day a week. It was a financially difficult time for the tuckshop team and P&C, but staff stepped up to ensure a healthy food service was provided to the students and teaching staff. The menu size was limited and a cashless system was introduced.

Term 4 has seen the tuckshop operating back to capacity, open three days a week. Orders have increased much to the delight of Sandy and the tuckshop team. They are very proud of the support they have received from their school community since reopening.

Waterford State School

Convenor: Erica Koskela

Term 2 was a very different experience for Erica and her tuckshop team, with only minimal orders coming through, so they set about introducing a few different menus to increase the tuckshop sales.

‘Tuckshop-at-Home’ was introduced where parents could collect tuckshop orders from the pick up zone and take them home. This suited families well, as they were already visiting school to collect printed curriculum materials from their teachers. This option also allowed parents working from home to not have to worry about making food throughout the day while they worked. For those students and staff attending school the ‘Take-it-Home’ packs were introduced to accompany the usual daily menu items. The packs were prepared and collected at the end of the school day to take home for the evening’s dinner or snack. Both were a huge hit and received fantastic support from the school community.

Erica also took the opportunity to organise the tuckshop pantry, plan events for later in the year, re-assess suppliers and get on top of paperwork. The decision was also made to go cashless, which was well received when students returned to school.

Term 3 saw the tuckshop team busier than ever, with sales increasing. Parents and school staff have told Erica that they rely on tuckshop for convenience and healthy meal options for their children. With parents returning to work, or working from home their time is limited, so knowing that their children can get nutritious food at school has made their lives easier.

Throughout the COVID experience Erica and her team maintained a fun and happy atmosphere in the tuckshop with students and staff always greeted with an ‘air high five’.


Yeronga State School

Convenors: Stacey Resetti and Yvonne Starr

Based on parent feedback Stacey and Yvonne developed a ‘click and collect’ menu for students who were learning at home. Families could order online and at a specific time come onto campus to collect their order to be eaten at home. It was well received and appreciated by many families working from home.

Whilst providing an excellent food service was Stacey and Yvonne’s main goal, this dynamic tuckshop team also wanted to put smiles onto their communities faces – so their dress up journey began. From a simple neon sweatband through to dressing up as tradies, hip hoppers, disco queens and school students; the ladies kept their school community entertained and engaged. They found it was a great way to interact with staff, students and parents to check in on how they were going. Even the teaching staff got involved and dressed up each Friday. They have seen this reflect in staff now ordering more from the tuckshop.

Working without the help of volunteers had it’s own challenges, but with the support of the Outside School Hours Care staff a high quality service was delivered and it was a great way to build good relationships with their P&C colleagues.

Term 3 saw the return of volunteers, much to the delight of Stacey and Yvonne. Term 4 is now business as usual, with orders increasing. This fun loving tuckshop team are looking forward to 2021 and all that it brings… as long as there is always time for dress ups and lots of laughter.


Creating Connections Through Cooking

Project Officers: Christine Stewart and Parivash Karimi

In conjunction with a number of stakeholders, schools and tuckshop convenors QAST has been working on the Creating Connections Through Cooking Project to place women and men from diverse backgrounds into volunteer positions in tuckshops in the Logan and South Brisbane areas. The Project has been a huge success for both the volunteers and the tuckshops. Convenors are delighted to have additional volunteers who bring a variety of skills, cooking techniques and delicious recipes with them and the volunteers have a welcoming and friendly environment where they can learn new skills or share their particular skills, practice their English and make new friends.

COVID-19 saw an interruption to our volunteers being able to continue with their roles in tuckshops; however, term 4 saw them restart their roles and they are all looking forward to Term 1, 2021.

Here is what we have achieved so far…

  • 76 expressions of interest received
  • 43 volunteers supported to complete Blue Card applications
  • 26 volunteers started their roles in school tuckshops
  • 11 schools hosted volunteer placements
  • 15 different nationalities represented
  • 1 volunteer offered a paid role in a tuckshop
  • 20 volunteers are still awaiting placement

For more information on the program download the Creating Connections Through Cooking brochure

Meet some of our volunteers


Socheata & Geeta                               Anis                                          Kobra

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Lula                                         Nazanin                                Shwe


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