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Golden Bay High School


To principals, I’d say if you want to get a new idea across then get the senior school in behind you. Having senior students role modelling has had a real effect. Students are more likely to take things on board when they hear them from other students, and when they feel as though their ideas are valued and their concerns are listened to


Former Canteen Committee chair

The school ethos and organisation

The school’s food and nutrition policy helped guide the development of a canteen, including determining what foods would be sold.

Parents have been a driving force to improve the food at Golden Bay High School, and they put in a lot of unpaid time and energy to make it happen. Student leaders also regard it as important to make healthy options available.

At the same time as its canteen opened, school rules were changed to stop students leaving the grounds during school hours to buy food and drinks from the dairy across the road. The former Canteen Committee chair commented: “I think to start with it was crucial, but now if access was reintroduced, I don’t think the canteen would lose too much trade.”

Curriculum programmes

The health, nutrition and physical education teachers try to link their lessons to the real-life experiences of their students, and reference to the canteen is sometimes drawn into lessons. The teachers are also investigating the option of providing work experience in the canteen, considering how the canteen can better promote the social aspects of food, and looking at creating a school garden.

Co-curricular health promotion opportunities

The school is aiming for consistent messages by changing its approach to fundraising and avoiding offering rewards that do not promote healthy eating.

'Dancing with the Staff' (with senior students and staff members matched up in a take-off of the popular television dance competition) and an annual lip-synch show have been very successful, not only in raising money but also in building relationships within the school and with the wider community.

Asked for her advice to other schools wanting to promote well-being, the former chair of the Canteen Committee said: “To principals, I’d say if you want to get a new idea across then get the senior school in behind you. Having senior students role modelling has had a real effect. Students are more likely to take things on board when they hear them from other students, and when they feel as though their ideas are valued and their concerns are listened to.”

The school and community environment

The principal recalls the "old-style" canteen that was operating when he started at the school eight years ago. “We weren’t particularly happy about what was being sold, and they were running it at a loss. So it eventually died a natural death.”

The only place to buy food – fizzy drinks, pies costing $1, and lollies – was from the dairy across the road, which students could visit during breaks. Concern about this situation led the Home and School Committee to introduce Monday Lunches – healthy food made and sold by a small group of parents. These proved very successful and continued for four years, during which time the committee convinced the Board of Trustees that a proper canteen was a good and financially viable option.

The next step was forming a Canteen Committee, which included the principal, a member of the Board of Trustees, the student trustee, the chair of the Home and School Committee and a canteen manager. The committee did its homework, seeking information from various sources (other schools, the Heart Foundation, the Public Health Unit) about how other canteens are run and what are considered healthy menu options. They feel the standards they have set for the school canteen are high: “We thought through what would work in the community, and we wanted to aim high because we thought we could always drop our standards if we really had to – but we didn’t have to, so that was good.”

Ensuring that the canteen would be financially sustainable was central to gaining the Board of Trustees’ support. The building was financed through capital expenditure funding from the Ministry of Education, and funds raised by the committee were used for equipment and stock. The canteen is not designed to make a big profit, but the school cannot afford for it to run at a loss; so far, it is just breaking even.

The canteen, which opened in 2007, offers high-quality and nutritious food at affordable prices. “There aren’t many schools you go to where all the food has been made fresh that morning, and there are fresh cheese pinwheels that have just come out of the oven and are still warm!” said the former chair of the Home and School Committee, who was the driving force behind establishing the canteen.

Winning the students over also turned out to be easier than many had expected. Students are positive about the canteen, and few have been caught sneaking over the road to the dairy. The student trustee explained, “In the beginning, students weren’t too happy that they weren’t allowed to go to the dairy, but it’s actually been really good. I haven’t had anyone come up to me saying that it’s unfair or that they want to go to the dairy.”

School and community partnerships

Where possible, food is made onsite and ingredients are sourced from local suppliers. For example, the canteen uses Heaphy Honey, produce from the community gardens, and Takaka spring water. The canteen manager also grows herbs and salad greens onsite. The menu is changed each term, according to the season and the fruit and vegetables available, and as canteen staff discover what works and what doesn’t.

The canteen is broadening the range of foods the students are exposed to, including a wide variety of vegetables and pulses. The canteen manager commented that young people are being educated by their peers – one student will try something new and, as a result, others are also willing to try. New menu items are often slow to sell at first, but once a critical mass of students has tried the new item, sales take off.

Reducing access to sugary drinks and junk food seems to have improved behaviour and concentration, especially among younger students. “I notice the kids seem really happy here – they’re all really perky – and I’ve heard teachers talk about it making a difference to their afternoons,” said the former committee chair.

The canteen manager is a trained chef and is paid market wages. She is seen as a key part of the school and has been involved with updating the food and nutrition policy. Her cooking skills and enthusiasm for turning the vision for the canteen into a reality have been critical to its success. “Part of the secret to keeping it going long term is employing someone with good cooking skills who’s interested in food, not just a canteen manager as such.”

Parents now feel happy to give their children money for lunch, knowing that all of the food available at the canteen is healthy.