In a review of 263 school menus across Australia, The Parents’ Jury identified that 30% of surveyed primary schools and less than 19% of surveyed secondary schools are compliant with nutrition guidelines.
Based on feedback from concerned parents, The Parents’ Jury with the support of Monash University and VicHealth undertook research to investigate the nutritional composition of online government school canteen menus across Australia.
It found vast differences in compliance among different states and territories.
Western Australia, where compliance is compulsory, leads the way with 62% of surveyed menus adhering to the state’s Healthy Food and Drink policy.
The next best performing states are South Australia and the Northern Territory where, respectively, 35% and 29% of surveyed schools adhere to their school nutrition policy.
The poorest performing states are the ACT with 5%, Victoria with 16% and Queensland with 18% of surveyed menus complying with their individual policies and guidelines.
The survey found that 56% of all surveyed menus feature chocolate or other forms of confectionary and more than 96% surveyed schools feature pastry products as a regular part of the menu.
More than 38% of menus across all surveyed secondary schools feature soft drink.
The study also looked at menu pricing and found that 87% of all surveyed schools serve pies regularly on their menus, whereas 69% serve salads.
The Parents’ Jury Manager Corrina Langelaan believes schools should be endorsing healthy eating messages in everything they do: “While at first glance, these results might seem worrying, we found that it would take very little effort to ensure Australian school menus offer children healthier choices.
“From our snapshot, menus generally contain 48% green (everyday) items, 49% amber (select carefully) and 3% red (not recommended) items.
“Of course we want kids to have the occasional treat and we’re not suggesting they be removed from the menu. However, amber and red items should not exceed green. Green food can be fun and profitable for school canteens. Increasing it would help school menus easily become compliant and give kids the opportunity to make great food choices.”
“Parents want to work with schools to help build a culture in which students actively choose nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle. However, they can’t do this alone, parents need the support of government to ensure schools and their canteens are in a strong position to deliver the healthy eating message,” said Langelaan.