St Michael’s, Nowra is making the healthy choice the easy choice for students after becoming an official ‘healthy school canteen’, meeting the NSW Government’s new Healthy School Canteen Strategy and food and drink criteria.
The St Michael’s canteen menu now includes a variety of healthy, tasty and interesting food options, providing students with the essential nutrients they need to learn, play and grow.
It was not long ago when chicken nuggets, hot dogs, wedges and croissants were the most popular lunch choices of St Michael’s students. Their winter menu now offers homemade meals – already proving to be a hit – such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, butter chicken and nachos. Fresh and healthy snacks include fruit kebabs, cheese and crackers, and bliss balls.
Meagan Dempsey, Director of Meagan’s Kitchen (a school canteen service and private caterer), was engaged by St Michael’s at the start of the year to manage their canteen. Ms Dempsey said students, parents and staff alike have all responded positively to the healthier offerings, which were introduced with help from Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.
“I love being able to provide healthy food for the children, helping them to make better choices,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that food impacts concentration and behaviour.”
"I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I believe that together, we can change children's eating habits and provide the education they need to stay healthy and active,” Ms Dempsey said. “I love what I do and look forward to waking up each morning to do it all again!”
St Michael’s is the first school in the Diocese to comply with the new food and drink criteria. The school started their journey by following the 10 steps to a healthy canteen course, with the final step involving an independent menu check which confirmed their canteen successfully met the criteria.
Public health nutritionist from Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Dr Rebecca Cook, said the strategy has been led by the Department of Education and the Ministry of Health, in consultation with Catholic Schools NSW and the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.
“To meet the criteria, the St Michael’s canteen menu needed to consist of at least 75 per cent ‘everyday’ food and drinks, and no more than 25 per cent ‘occasional' items,” Dr Cook said. “It’s an impressive achievement for St Michael’s to have successfully achieved this status, particularly as the food and drink criteria is optional for Catholic schools to adopt.
“Meagan took over the management of the canteen at the beginning of the year and hasn’t looked back since. Her passion to provide healthy options has paid off. The children, parents and staff at St Michael's love the healthy meals now on offer.”
Ms Dempsey advertises regular specials through her Facebook page – Meagan’s Kitchen – with the latest offerings being pork and slaw mini wraps, pumpkin and feta quiches and chicken salad bowls.
When asked about the new canteen menu, Year 6 student Lucas said, “The canteen is much better now because there is more variety. I especially like the salads they serve.” While Oliver from Year 2 said, “[Breakfast club] has really good food from the canteen – good food to feed my hungry belly!”
Further information on the Healthy School Canteen Strategy is available at the Healthy School Canteens website.