Toorloo Arm Primary School in Lake Tyers Beach has refreshed its food and drink options for students as part of a new healthy, state-wide movement that fuels kids to grow, learn and be active.
Toorloo Arm Primary is one of the first schools in the East Gippsland Shire to refresh the fridge and switch up the snacks, boosting healthy food and drinks on offer under Vic Kids Eat Well’s simple, easy steps.
Vic Kids Eat Well supports schools, sports clubs, outside school hours care and community organisations to offer healthier food and drink environments to give every child the healthy start they deserve.
This initiative is supported by the Victorian Government and delivered by Cancer Council Victoria’s Achievement Program, in partnership with Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Eating Advisory Service.
Principal, Kerry Hughes, said Vic Kids Eat Well’s healthier food and drink swaps are simple tweaks that significantly benefit kids’ health.
“Healthy children in our care is our job. When I came across Vic Kids Eat Well, I said to the school council, ‘let’s do this!’,” Ms Hughes said.
“After COVID-19 closures, we didn’t have enough volunteers to run our new kitchen canteen so had to pivot quickly. After putting an ad in our local paper and working with our local health promoter at Gippsland Lakes Community Health, we found an outsourced lunch provider and now offer Friday lunches for our kids.”
‘Switch up the snacks’ and ‘refresh the fridge’ were two of the Vic Kids Eat Well ‘bites’ Toorloo Arm Primary adopted.
Ms Hughes said, “We had to rethink offering cakes and muffins. Now we’re a fruit-first and water-only school.
“We’ve boosted our lunch order menu with a variety of healthy veggies and salads. Our Friday lunches offer tasty, delicious homemade veggie soups, veggie pastas and healthy chicken salad wraps.
“There’s been no qualms about adopting these healthy food changes; our kids just enjoy having something special on Fridays.”
Jaquie Nethercote is the Health Promotion Officer at Gippsland Lakes Community Health who is supporting the school’s Vic Kids Eat Well progress and helped review their new menu.
“It’s been great supporting a school that’s been eager to go outside the comfort zone,” Ms Nethercote said.
“Toorloo Arm students now enjoy veggie packed buddha bowls and healthy chilli con carne. These aren’t your average school menu items, so it’s wonderful to expand the kids’ tastes in a healthy way that sets them up for life.
“I also suggested reducing the pack size of flavoured milks and juices. To my surprise, the school decided to cut flavoured milks and juices altogether in favour of water. Positively, this reduced the school’s climate impact as kids now bring reusable water bottles from home.”
Ms Nethercote said schools can join Vic Kids Eat Well at any point and work through the initiative at their own pace with health promotion support from Gippsland Lakes Community Health.
“Vic Kids Eat Well’s fundraising ‘bite’ might be a good starting point if a school isn’t ready for canteen changes. For other schools, slowly changing up the menu might be easier. Whether it’s swapping the fundraising bake sale for a trivia night or ditching the deep fryer for oven-baked or toasted options, small swaps can lead to big, healthy changes that benefit all.”
Tope Adepoyibi, Head of Achievement Program at Cancer Council Victoria congratulated Toorloo Arm Primary School on its healthy swaps. She said Vic Kids Eat Well offers flexible support for settings to make simple, healthy changes where kids spend their time.
“We all want our kids to attend school, outside school hours care or play sport free from unhealthy foods and sugary drinks. Tasty, nourishing foods help fuel kids’ concentration to learn at school, improves their mood and boosts energy to be active and play their favourite sports,” Ms Adepoyibi said.
“Working with their expert local health promoter, schools and community organisations are supported to take small steps at their own pace and celebrate milestones along the way. Vic Kids Eat Well harnesses the power of community to build the next generation of happy, healthy Victorian kids.”
East Gippsland and 12 priority communities across the state will also receive additional hands-on support through the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative, which is delivered by Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian and Australian Governments.
Learn more or join Vic Kids Eat Well at vickidseatwell.health.vic.gov.au or contact Jaquie Nethercote at Gippsland Lakes Community Health on firstname.lastname@example.org.