Schools give healthy cooked lunches a good report

Schools give healthy cooked lunches a good report

Late last year three Southern Tasmanian schools provided healthy cooked lunches to selected classes for a month, through funding provided by Healthy Tasmania.

The School Lunch Pilot was coordinated and implemented by the Tasmanian School Canteen Association and evaluated by Dr Kylie Smith from the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research. Students, parents, canteen staff and volunteers, principals, teachers and support staff gave feedback on the Pilot through interviews, discussion groups and surveys.

The lunches were prepared from scratch using at least fifty percent Tasmanian produce, and included a main course and a side.

“Two schools reported that students were calmer and that there was an increase in attendance, particularly among students who were often absent from school,” Dr Smith said.

“The lunch program was highly valued by the school community. It gave all children the chance to have a healthy cooked lunch and to eat as much as they needed. The canteen managers were keen to continue with the cooked lunches if funding permitted.”

Findings also included students and parents appreciating the variety of the lunches and that students were able to try new, tasty, and healthy foods. School staff and parents also said children were more settled before and after lunch and after school.

Ninety-five percent of parents said they would like a cooked lunch to be provided every day and most were willing to pay $3 to $5 a meal. Parents also spoke of enjoying the break from preparing lunches, providing families with more calmness in the mornings when getting ready for school and work.

Julie Dunbabin, Executive Officer, Tasmanian School Canteen Association, said that providing a lunch program ensures all children have access to tasty, nutritious food at school. Well-fed children can grow, learn, and develop social skills.

Extending funding to expand the pilot school lunch project to include more schools will enable a greater understanding of the benefits and challenges as well as the different ways it can be offered throughout Tasmanian schools.