Rowville Primary School has been working towards improving health outcomes for its students. Other Victorian schools can also work on their own healthy eating initiatives by joining Vic Kids Eat Well, where they will be supported to create healthier food and drink environments.
Rowville Primary School is one of the first schools to join Vic Kids Eat Well and had already taken huge steps to make healthy eating a priority for its students.
The school has been working closely with EACH Community Health Service to change up its canteen menu to provide healthier options and remove unhealthy food advertising. It also has a kitchen garden where students are encouraged to create their own meals.
Rowville Primary School encourages its staff to feed healthy eating values into the curriculum and puts a focus on nutrition during extracurricular activities.
In 2021, student leaders in the Health and Wellbeing Parliamentarian working group designed and implemented their own project to help boost vegetable intake of students across the school. They are leading the way to inspire fellow students, as this will become an annual initiative for future Health and Wellbeing Parliamentarians.
Physical Education teacher and health and wellbeing party leader Liz Altmeppen said the school had implemented these changes over time with extensive support and professional advice provided through their three-year partnership with EACH.
“The aim is to instil healthy eating and lifestyle values in our students early so that it’s second nature for them,” she said.
“Especially with our older students, we want them to really think about what’s in their food and check labels, particularly around sugar content. We want the students to have autonomy in deciding what they eat and make those healthy choices.
“Our parents have been very supportive of the healthy food and drink changes. Parents want what’s best for their children and want them to grow up healthy and happy.”
GET INSPIRED: RESOURCES FOR VIC KIDS EAT WELL
The health and wellbeing party is made up of teachers, canteen staff, EACH staff and parent volunteers.
Every organisation that joins Vic Kids Eat Well will be connected to a dedicated health promotion professional who will support the organisation every step of the way.
Smarter Lunchroom Movement
Prevention and Population Health team EACH Community Health Service started a partnership with Rowville Primary in 2019 to conduct a three-year demonstration project based on the Smarter Lunchroom Movement which has been successfully running in more than 30,000 schools across the United States.
The project is based around behavioural insight strategies and focuses on increasing vegetable consumption for school students making subtle changes to the canteen and school environment.
Once completed, EACH’s Prevention and Population Health Team hopes to develop resources suitable for the Australian school canteen environment and enable other schools to follow similar strategies.
The school has made significant changes to its canteen – both inside and out, meaning its well on its way to completing Vic Kids Eat Well action areas.
“We got the students involved in transforming the canteen. The art teacher designed a fruit and vegetable mural to go around the canteen window and the students helped paint it,” she said.
“We wanted the inside of the canteen to look clean and bright. We took down any posters that were advertising unhealthy foods and received a grant to purchase all our own equipment so none of it had food and drink brand logos.
“A nother thing we did was put healthy items like cut fruit and vegetables on the counter and in sight. We also made some changes to our canteen menu. Now our specials include healthy items like sushi, power burgers and pumpkin soup.”
Vic Kids Eat Well is focused on four healthy food and drink action areas which organisations can choose from and work through, with the support of their health promotion professional.
They are refresh the fridge, switch up the snacks, change up the menu and put the ‘fun’ into fundraising and marketing.
GET INSPIRED: FIVE REASONS TO JOIN VIC KIDS EAT WELL
Mrs Altmeppen said canteen orders were a treat for the majority of the school’s students. However, she said the majority of parents would purchase from the canteen more often if there were more healthier options available.
“There was a concern that too many changes to the canteen would mean it would run at a loss. The canteen isn’t there to make money, but rather provide a service for parents,” she said.
The school has a chicken coop and Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden which is used by students and parents alike.
“The students grow their own veggies in the garden and use what they grow to create healthy meals which can be shared together,” Mrs Altmeppen said.
“We also have a cooking collective where parents come in and make food from scratch, utilising any excess garden produce. These are items that are freshly made in bulk quantities, to be stored, frozen and quickly and easily heated for lunch orders sold in the canteen.”
Mrs Altmeppen said plans to improve students’ eating habits were always in motion, with the school hoping to add extra nutritious items to its canteen in the future.
“We want to get to a stage where we have more healthy food items than less healthy ones. We also want to make sure that we’re using all the food grown in our garden so none of it goes to waste,” she said.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CAN SIGN UP TO VIC KIDS EAT WELL HERE