September 29, 2022

kruakhunyahashland

Free For All Food

Switch to new school healthy eating program provider triggers concerns banned junk food will reappear

Changes to the way WA schools promote healthy eating for kids have prompted concerns that junk food such as chips, soft drinks and lollies could creep back on to school canteen menus.

The Health Department recently awarded a $3.7 million contract to Victorian-based organisation Nutrition Australia to provide a “whole of school healthy eating program” — snubbing the WA School Canteen Association, which has delivered the State Government’s healthy food and drink policy in schools for the past 15 years.

While the new program is expected to continue a traffic light system categorising food choices as green for nutritious, amber for occasional, or red for junk, there are fears the new provider will change WA’s criteria.

“At a school level, that might mean the health of our kids is affected because we could have some unhealthy items coming into schools which have currently not been there,” WASCA chief executive Megan Sauzier said.

“The traffic light system is a bit different in Victoria. Red foods, for example, which are soft drinks, lollies and chips, are off the menu in WA and have been off the menu from 2007, whereas in Victoria you’re allowed to have red foods twice a term.”

Nutrition Australia is yet to release full details of its approach, but insists there would be no immediate changes to WA’s traffic light criteria.

“We will implement the criteria the WA government wants us to implement,” Nutrition Australia’s Victorian healthy eating advisory service program manager Margaret Rozman said.

Ms Sauzier said the decision to disregard WASCA’s excellent track record and experience to award the tender to an interstate organisation meant its funding had been slashed by 41 per cent, significantly reducing its capacity to support schools and assess their canteen menus.

“We look forward to seeing what is developed . . . but until that service is set up, we’re unsure what that will look like and there’s likely to be a gap in the services schools are used to receiving,” she said. “Anything that increases the burden on school or canteen staff is likely to have a negative effect.”