Lake Albert Public School is the latest canteen to take on the Healthy School Canteens strategy

HEALTHY CANTEEN: Lake Albert Public School's canteen staff Merrin Spackman, Tanya Croston and Belinda Holdsworth. Picture: Les Smith
HEALTHY CANTEEN: Lake Albert Public School's canteen staff Merrin Spackman, Tanya Croston and Belinda Holdsworth. Picture: Les Smith

IT WAS not long ago when pies and sausage rolls were the most popular lunch option for students.

And fresh, healthy snacks and meals were hard to find in a canteen.

The city's schools, however, are approaching a deadline that requires its tuck-shops to increase healthy food and drink options to more than 75 per cent

So far, 30 out of 126 primary schools are compliant with the Healthy School Canteens strategy within the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

Lake Albert Public School is just one of the canteens to recently achieved this status.

HEALTHY SNACKS: Lake Albert Public School's canteen manager Tanya Croston is helping students eat more fruit and vegetables by cooking fresh, healthy food everyday. Picture: Les Smith

HEALTHY SNACKS: Lake Albert Public School's canteen manager Tanya Croston is helping students eat more fruit and vegetables by cooking fresh, healthy food everyday. Picture: Les Smith

Just like many other schools, frozen and sugary foods once overwhelmed its tuck-shop menu.

Canteen Manager Tanya Croston said a typical lunch order for students were pies, sausage rolls or prepackaged crumbed chicken, known as Yummy Drummies.

But, grilled chicken burgers, homemade pizza and beef burgers are now the lunch of choice.

It only took Ms Croston six months to transform the school's menu - and with no complaints to be heard.

The secret to success was fun, interesting food that was not too different from the old menu items.

"I changed Yummy Drummies to grilled chicken. The kids didn't even notice the change and they love them," she said.

"Everything is now freshly made from the pizza to lasagna, spaghetti bolognese and butter chicken. I sneak vegetables into the recipes and they don't know the difference.

"They love the fresh fruit because we make it interesting - like watermelon pops or frozen yogurt pops as opposed to ice blocks."

Murrumbidgee Local Health District health promotion coordinator Alex Walker said the organisation has been supporting every school in the area to align the canteen menu with the strategy by December.

Ms Walker said the project has not been without challenges and each canteen has faced different obstacles on the way to becoming a healthier school.

"School canteens set the tone for healthy eating across the whole school," she said.

"The students learn by experience and when they are taught about healthy eating in classroom it should align to what can be purchased in the school's canteen."

Ms Walker said engaging students, parents and teachers has been important to help maintain the hard work put in by each school.

"We invest a lot of money in shoes, but we don't think twice about what food we put into our belly," she said.

"Children who are eating healthy are going to grow better and learn better. We should be making healthy eating the easiest choice for our children."

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