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Reporoa College

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Many teenagers need, and are happy, to be guided and restricted on matters such as healthy eating, and the school staff need to be strong for the students’ sake

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Principal

The school ethos and organisation

The move to improve Reporoa’s food and nutrition environment started five years ago, when the principal decided to develop a five-year

property plan. A Campus Development Committee was established, which included Board of Trustee members, staff, and a student representative. This student surveyed other students, who identified three priorities, one of which was to improve school food. This priority is now part of Reporoa’s Respect programme, which was initiated by students and highlights respect for self, others, and property.

Reporoa has found that older students are the most likely to challenge change, and tries to address this by talking to the "ringleaders" and explaining the need to set a good example to younger students. The principal’s experience is that the fear of change is often far greater than the change itself, and students pretty soon "get over" grumbling about change and just accept it. In comparison, younger students tend to just accept change and as time goes on those changes become "just what you do" – this is helped by many coming from primary schools where healthy eating is the norm. One of the outcomes of a survey of year 7 students was that the food was one of the best things about Reporoa.

Curriculum programmes

Reporoa had limited food service facilities and was able to serve only pre-prepared packaged food. The college obtained a grant from the Rotorua Community Asset Fund to build a new commercial kitchen and a covered outdoor eating area, both off the school hall. During the planning and building of the new kitchen, chefs were consulted to ensure the kitchen would be suitable for functions and for teaching hospitality unit standards.

Co-curricular health promotion opportunities

The healthy eating philosophy is becoming integrated into all areas of the school’s life. Students are requested not to bring soft drinks or confectionery to school, and the school has an agreement with the two local food shops that students will not be sold soft drinks before or during the school day. Only year 13 students are allowed out of the grounds during the day, and they are encouraged to maintain healthy eating principles and to set a good example to younger pupils.

The first 15 minutes of the lunch break are designated as "eating time" in the quad/hall area of the school, and chocolate or confectionery are not used for fundraising. Students on school trips are also encouraged to embrace healthy eating – when a class planned to eat at a McDonald’s during a field trip, the principal made sure a more suitable venue was found.

The school and community environment

Kitchen.

The new canteen opened in May 2007 as a café with a takeaway facility. It opens for breakfast before school, when students can get cereal or toast and spreads, and hot Milo for 50c an item. A $5 hot meal is available every lunchtime, with a seasonal four-week rotating menu including macaroni cheese and salad, spaghetti bolognese, chilli con carne, and steak, with oven wedges and salad. After school, the canteen is open for the students to buy snacks and drinks before their bus ride home or sports practice.

The school aims to sell only healthy food – no fried foods, soft drinks, or confectionery are available, although the "takeaway" canteen does sell reduced-fat chippies, juice drinks, flavoured milk, and small cookies. Low-fat options are used wherever possible, such as trim milk and Edam cheese. While chips are provided as a treat on Fridays, they are oven-baked, low-fat varieties.

The idea is to bring a generation of students through the school who are more health-aware and for whom healthy eating and physical activity are the norm. The principal feels that it is her responsibility to be open to the ideas students and staff come up with, and to be prepared to support and facilitate those ideas to become reality. She believes student and staff ownership of initiatives makes them much more viable and sustainable.

School and community partnerships

The school is in the process of establishing a health committee as part of work to become a Health Promoting School. Led by two students who are working with the Health Promoting School coordinator, the full committee will include other students, parents, teachers, and members of the Board of Trustees. They feel that this will help ensure the sustainability of the healthy eating initiatives.

The school has the support of parents, teachers, and Board of Trustee members in promoting healthy eating. Some parents have said the school insisting on no fizzy drinks and promoting healthier food makes it easier for them at home and has introduced their children to new foods.

The publicity the school has received about its healthy eating campaign has created a degree of pride within the school and in the wider community. The students like being part of a school that has a good reputation, and they are encouraged to eat healthily while they are in public in school uniform, to maintain and reinforce this reputation.

The school is an important part of the community and the principal notes that “the community feeling good about the school is an important part of the school feeling good about itself”. The school’s facilities, such as the new kitchen and school hall, are considered community assets and are available for its use. The entire community receives the school newsletter, which publishes the canteen menu and health promotion messages, and visitors are welcome to eat in the canteen.


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