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Wanganui Girls College


It shows how nice food can sell



The school ethos and organisation

The development of the college’s sport, physical activity and nutrition policy was instigated by a Year 13 student who was investigating the


canteen food as part of her food technology project. She found the canteen offered foods that were high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and that for healthier changes to be implemented and sustained, they needed to be underpinned by a good nutrition policy. She consulted students, Board of Trustee members, and staff, and the results were used to inform the policy, which was developed in 2005 by the food technology and physical education teachers, and the Board of Trustees.

The policy supports the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines and states that:

  • The school will be registered with the National Heart Foundation’s School Food Programme and will meet the criteria for an annual Heartbeat award by refining the menu to provide a variety of food low in fat, salt and sugar.
  • Students will not be permitted to leave the school grounds during the school day to purchase food or beverages.
  • Staff and school canteen contractors will be encouraged to promote healthy eating habits. Canteen contractors will consult with the school Health Committee when making changes to the lunch menu.
  • Where possible, foods available at school or at school events will be consistent with the New Zealand Food and Nutrition Guidelines.
  • Physical education, health and food technology programmes will incorporate nutrition education and will aim to help students make informed decisions about food choices that will contribute to their well-being.

Curriculum programmes

Students in the food technology class (Years 11, 12, and 13) were involved in all aspects of the new menu, from conducting a school-wide survey about students’ food preferences, to looking at the costs involved in making and sustaining the menu, to actually making/preparing the food and selling it to their fellow students.

Co-curricular health promotion opportunities

A particular consideration was sustainability of the healthier options. This required students to think about how long the items took to prepare, whether they could be prepared earlier, whether they could be frozen, how much they cost to make, and how much profit the canteen operator could make from them in order to sustain her business. Students also promoted the new menu by word of mouth, reminding students to bring money to school to try the new, healthier menu. Students said senior staff involvement in the project was crucial because fellow students, particularly younger ones, need positive role models. The school also had some valuable support from the hospital dietician, who advised them on the nutritional content of their food.

The school and community environment


The school now has a new school canteen operator. After several months of trialling healthy options, a menu is now in place that offers healthy options such as macaroni cheese, home-made soup and roll, panini, sandwiches, chilli bean nachos with light sour cream, dagwood sandwiches with wholemeal bread, cheese scones, low fat/sugar blueberry and chocolate muffins, and Anzac biscuits. Senior students with access to the local shops at lunchtime are no longer permitted to bring unhealthy foods into the school grounds, as they must be seen by junior students to be good role models at all times.

Students welcome the new menu and one student said: “It shows how nice healthy food can sell.” When asked whether students were spending similar amounts on their lunch, students thought they were spending more because the food was nicer and they had more variety.

It is hoped the new menu may entice the year 13 students, who are allowed to leave the grounds and are often tempted to bring takeaways back, to stay in school at lunchtime to sample the healthy food in the canteen – which may result in better food choices at home.

One of the biggest challenges for the college in implementing the nutrition policy has been getting all the staff "on the same page". Some were very cynical of the healthier changes. The push for healthy eating has not been supported by all staff, with some preferring to retain the vending machine in the staffroom, which the school is hoping to remove, and other staff members still rewarding students with unhealthy food, such as providing fish and chips at form parties.

But it is very much work in progress – the food technology teacher sees the new canteen menu as a first step that will lead to other changes within the school’s food and nutrition environment.

School and community partnerships

The college is taking steps to implement its new food and nutrition policy with the support of the National Heart Foundation’s Health Promotion coordinator. A committee of students, health teachers, the canteen manager, and the principal has been set up to progress this work, with the aim of achieving the School Food Bronze award. Steps are being taken to refine the canteen menu to include healthier foods by removing fizzy drinks, chips, and deep-fried foods, replacing regular pies with ones that have the Heart Foundation tick, use of lower-fat alternatives such as Edam cheese, replacing fatty chicken patties with lower-fat patties, and phasing out lollies. Chicken nuggets, doughnuts, instant noodles, and potato chips have all been removed, and there is now more emphasis on foods with the Heart Foundation tick.

The canteen manager has been encouraged to promote healthy eating habits, and she is keen to do this as long as it is viable. Key requirements are time to prepare and source such products, and the need to make a profit. The canteen manager and the food technology teacher are starting to find suppliers of healthier foods. The college funds the canteen manager to attend courses and meetings, and as part of the school’s Gateway Programme students are given work experience in the canteen.