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Kids reaping the rewards of bold tuckshop changes

At Cannonvale State School, in the Whitsunday region of North Queensland, big changes have been happening in the health and wellbeing of the whole school community.

It all began in 2021, when the school signed up to Life Education’s Healthy Eats program, which aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in primary school-aged kids.

As part of the program, the QAST Healthier Tuckshops Program team worked with the school tuckshop to achieve a menu that was compliant with the Smart Choices – Healthy Food and Drink Supply Strategy for Queensland Schools.

After some minor tweaks and swaps, the tuckshop menu was given a 3-apple rating, which meant it complied… with room for improvement.

But the school community wanted more.

After the school joined the Pick of the Crop program in 2022, which aims to increase opportunities for Queensland primary school children to learn about and eat more vegetables and fruit, multitudes of children campaigned across the school towards the end of 2022 for a healthier and more environmentally sustainable tuckshop menu. 

TUCKSHOP AT A GLANCE

School
Cannonvale State School

Convenors
Sabrina Mitchell and Margaret Clark

Department of Education region
North Queensland

Days open/week
5 days

Number of students
824

Menu rating
5-apples

Cannonvale State School tuckshop

With the full support of the principal, school leadership team and P&C association, they started to make positive changes happen.

The school and the QAST Healthier Tuckshops Program teamed up with Tim Oberg, Founder of the Healthy Kids Project to get the ball rolling on implementing changes to the wider school community.

A complete overhaul of the tuckshop menu was the first cab off the rank.

The QAST Healthier Tuckshops Program worked closely with convenors Sabrina and Margaret to develop a new menu full of fresh, tasty, wholesome foods that would be served in the most sustainably available packaging.

The hard work paid off, with the menu now rating 5-apples, with 93% of the menu considered GREEN, and 7% classed as AMBER. 

Cannonvale State School Tuckshop Menu

The school, in collaboration with the Healthy Kids Project, also teamed up with the local Woolworths Supermarkets to provide 200 pieces of fresh fruit to give away to the children every Friday; they call it “Free Fresh Fruit Friday!”

After a term of trying out the new menu on the kids, the wider school community has thrown their support behind the tuckshop, the school and the P&C for being proactive in caring for the wellbeing of the children.

Despite facing significant criticism for the removal of food items classed as RED (such as party pies and icy poles), the team at Cannonvale State School remain committed to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable tuckshop menu – delivering on what the students had campaigned for in 2022.

So, to hear it straight from the horses mouth, we sat down with Cannonvale State School’s hardworking convenor, Sabrina Mitchell, about how the overhaul of the tuckshop menu was the catalyst for wider community change… and how they have never looked back.

Convenor Q&A

What were the main factors that motivated the menu overhaul?

Our main motivation was the health and well-being of our kids. Our motto is “a healthy option at an affordable price”.

 What are some of the most popular items on the new improved menu?

Sushi, homemade gluten-free lasagne, frozen pineapple rings, plain rice, boiled eggs, and corn on the cob so far seem to be very popular. 

 Our Free Fresh Fruit Friday, provided by Woolworths, is gaining momentum.

What feedback have you been receiving from the school community (teachers, parents and students) about the new menu?

At first, we did cop a small amount of backlash on social media. Maybe 5 or 10 people with very strong opinions. We expected this and held tight.

Shortly after, we started to receive many emails of encouragement and I even had parents pulling me up at the shops saying thank you.

Several parents whose kids have allergies have told me they can now find suitable things on the menu.

And most importantly we had kids slowly but surely coming to our window trying new things and loving it.

What other changes have happened in the wider school community in terms of health and wellbeing, and what learnings about this process would you share with others?

Our whole school is on board. Our principal could not be any more supportive. Our teachers are right beside us and our P&C is over the moon.

Really the tuckshop is part of a well-oiled machine.

We have a health and wellness teacher who has created school gardens, compost bins, worm farms, and fruit tree gardens. Then there is also a recycling program.

We are also proud to be a reef guardian school, so you can see we are all on board with providing healthier options for food, for our environment and our community.

Have you got any tips for other school tuckshop convenors who might be looking to make healthy changes to their menu but aren’t sure where to begin?

The biggest tip we have is to rip the band aid off and just do it!

Honestly, pick a term, start date, write your menu, (make it simple to start with), be prepared for a little bit of flack, be prepared to lose a little bit of money. But just do it.

When you see the healthier orders roll in from the regulars, you will feel it in your heart that you have done the right thing and it feels great.

There is no downside to this.

This case study was developed as part of the Healthier Tuckshops program funded by the Queensland Government through Health and Wellbeing Queensland.

Health and Wellbeing Queensland
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