The New Zealand Heart Foundation’s The School Food Programme is a well-known, well-researched and respected totally Kiwi programme of some 13 years’ successful standing. 500 schools (60% primary, 40% secondary) are currently participating, and with the launch of the online version of the programme at the end of June, many more schools will be joining.
The programme is free but you do need to enrol. Enrolling is as easy as going to www.heartfoundation.org.nz and clicking on Educational Programmes, clicking on The School Food Programme and scrolling down till you reach the registration form. Once you’ve registered, login is even quicker.
The aim of The School Food Programme is "to improve the health of the school community by increasing children’s access to foods that are nutritious, safe and sufficient in quantity, and by influencing policy development which promotes healthy food choice." Schools can play an important role in helping students to develop healthy eating habits. By providing healthy food choices and by supporting these choices with a healthy environment The School Food Programme provides policy and advice, information and resources and curriculum guidelines which reinforce classroom nutrition education.
The aim of The School Food Programme website is to be multidimensional without complexity. There’s a wealth of information behind the simple coloured thematic strands. You can start at the green FOOD CHOICE strand and see exactly what your school needs to do to achieve a Heartbeat Award and then progress to Bronze, Silver and Gold Heartbeat Awards. You can click on examples of each award and read case studies of schools which have completed the awards. You can download a policy planner and insert your own deadlines.
Parallel strands are PROMOTING HEALTHY FOODS (orange), NUTRITION EDUCATION (red) and COMMUNITY HEALTH PROMOTION (yellow). As a classroom teacher you can click on ‘Curriculum links’, get information on how to plan curriculum units and download examples. There are links to other recommended New Zealand sites covering, for example, food safety qualifications. You can also get Hot Tips, or answers to Frequently Asked Questions, for instance about whether healthy canteens are profitable. And there’s great advice on community-wide initiatives. Many of the resources are downloadable, and the site provides easily navigable, rich, well-organised information.
New Zealand 2002: Despite the significant progress made by many schools in providing healthier foods and encouraging students to embrace 5+-a-day, healthy breakfasts and lunches, childhood obesity seems to be on the rise. The National Nutrition Survey revealed that the diets of many 13-15 year olds were deficient in calcium and fibre, and the outcomes of the National Children’s Nutrition Survey which was launched in March 2002 (to be completed 2004) are expected to reflect the unhealthy eating behaviours emerging from anecdotal evidence, and from current Australian studies.
What we need is not just annual nutrition weeks and events. The school itself as an environment gives messages to children about eating. With a worldwide expansion of fast food chains setting up in schools, or supplying ordered lunches, it’s timely to ask what messages the school environment gives students about healthy eating. Rocky road fundraisers, cookie competitions, vending machines, sausage sizzles, chocolate bar or fast food voucher prizes, even teachers eating hot chips or pies on duty, all send messages which directly contradict the nutrition education, 5+-a-day, healthy breakfast and healthy lunch messages.
The School Food Programme online will help to reinforce the need for consistency
and continuity in these messages. It provides the wherewithal
to help teachers ‘walk the talk’. The whole school needs to
be a role model. Following through the coloured strands on the
website also provides a wealth of ideas for extending these
messages to the wider community,