The National Healthy School Canteens (NHSC) project was funded by the Australian Government, as part of the Australian Better Health Initiative. Commencing in 2008, the project has developed national guidance and training to help canteen managers make healthier food and drink choices for school canteens.

Guidelines and resources are intended for use in school canteens across Australia, and draw on existing national materials such as The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines*, as well as state and territory resources.

While the NHSC Guidelines have been designed specifically for use in school canteens, they may also be used in the context of other school activities where food is provided or sold. This could include events such as fundraisers, class parties, school camps, school fetes, sporting carnivals and school dances and social events. When using the guidelines and resources, any other arrangements set out in state, territory and federal regulations will also need to be met.

It is important to recognise that while the NHSC Guidelines may provide a useful reference point for assessing the nutritional value of food and drink they are primarily designed for use in schools. If the resources are used in other settings for adults or very young children the relevant healthy eating guidelines for these age groups needs to be considered.

The NHSC Guidelines do not provide endorsement of any specific food or drink products. Instead the guidelines will support canteen managers to make an informed assessment of the nutritional value of food and drink that may be supplied in school canteens.

Materials and resources have been developed by Flinders University, South Australia, supported by Flinders Partners Pty Ltd, in collaboration with a state and territory reference group, nutrition experts and the Department of Health and Ageing.

Consultations with canteen managers, the food manufacturing industry, school communities and education representatives have been held to ensure that a range of views were captured in the development phase. The consultation process has also included a trial of the resources with canteen managers in July 2009 and a pilot program of the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines in nine schools with a diverse range of students across Australia from October to December 2009.

The National Healthy School Canteens project is made up of the following resources:

  • ‘National Healthy School Canteens: Guidelines for healthy foods and drinks supplied in canteens’
  • National Healthy School Canteens Quick Reference’
  • ‘National Healthy School Canteens Pocket Guide’
  • Poster – ‘Healthy kids need healthy canteens!’
  • ‘National Healthy School Canteens Training Participant’s Workbook’
  • ‘National Healthy School Canteens Trainer’s Manual’
Also included is the ‘National Healthy School Canteens Evaluation Toolkit’ that states and territories may use to assess the implementation of the resources.

There are several other important points to consider when using this guide, which are as follows:
  • Foods and drinks categorised as Green or Amber according to the NHSC criteria may be included on the school canteen menu, but will not necessarily be available on every school canteen menu. The sale of these foods and drinks may be further restricted by local arrangements. For example, where there is a ’no caffeine’ or ‘nut free’ policy in place, foods containing these ingredients may not be sold; and,
  • Local arrangements should not be used to allow foods and drinks categorised as RED to be on the school canteen menu.

The Guidelines for healthy foods and drinks supplied in school canteens is based on The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines.

‘The NHSC Guidelines are also based on the NSW Department of Health and NSW Department of Education and Training Canteen Menu Planning Guide 2004, which is part of the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.’Background information