The school has revamped the canteen menu to tasty, healthier dishes including this Asian stir-fry with vegetables and rice noodles.
The school has revamped the canteen menu to tasty, healthier dishes including this Asian stir-fry with vegetables and rice noodles.

School canteen’s genius food menu

GONE are the days of meat pies and hot dogs - today's school generation is all about salad bowls, stir fry's, gluten-free meals and now - kombucha.

Most parents would agree that it takes a bit of encouraging to convince their children to eat healthier.

But not at this school. Sunshine Beach High students have fully embraced the healthy eating movement thanks to canteen manager Jodie Slater.

The former restaurant owner - who is currently studying nutrition and dietetics with a focus on healthy eating for children - has completely revamped the school menu substituting those fatty Aussie staples with tasty, healthy dishes.

From freshly made couscous salads, gluten-free pasta and currys, braised barbecue brisket burgers and zucchini fritters - it's no wonder students are hurrying to get their lunchtime fix.

But the tuckshop gained a whole new level of popularity when Ms Slater introduced the "gut-loving" fermented tea beverage, Kombucha - or as its trendier name goes by, "booch".

It is believed to be the first school in Australia to stock the drink which has been praised for its health benefits.

"We were waiting to see how the students were going to react to it because they have a tendency to not go for healthy products," Ms Slater said.

She said the drink attracted different age groups for different reasons.

"The older students are more aware of healthy eating habits which is why they're grabbing the drink at lunch to have with their salads, while the younger kids in years 7 and 8 are grabbing it more for the flavour."

While the amount of sugar used in Kombucha can vary between brands, Ms Slater said she thoroughly researched for a brand containing zero.

"Fortunately we found a brand Remedy Kombucha, which contains no sugar in it at all. That was essential so we went with it straight away," Ms Slater said.

"Kombucha is good for bacteria in your stomach and helps with digestion which a lot of kids are missing out on because they're eating so much processed food."

 

Sunshine Beach High now stocks Kombucha for its students.
Sunshine Beach High now stocks Kombucha for its students.

 

Steve Byrne, the fermentation guru behind Remedy Kombucha said the beverage is great for children as much as it is for adults.

"It's a great alterative to sugary drinks as it contains no sugar and has healthy live culture of beneficial bacteria," Mr Byrne said.

The product and innovation director who is heavily involved in the drinks' production process said the sugar is converted into healthy organic acids during fermentation.

"We have a giant tea pot where we steep our organic green or black tea, then add some organic sugar and our live culture from the previous fermenting batch, which allows our fermentation to proceed for at least 30 days," Mr Byrne said.

"Because it is a long ageing process, the live age culture bubbles away in the pots which then converts all of the sugar into healthy organic acids and what you end up with is a tasty bubbly, slightly tart, sugarfree drink."

The school sells about four cases of the drink a month (24 cans in each).

"As a school we have also culled the use of plastic. The Kombucha bottles come in cans as oppose to plastic bottles," Ms Slater said.

A standard 700ml PET bottle sells for $7 in supermarkets but the brand has 250ml canned versions at $3 for school students.

With one quarter of all children and 29 per cent of young people being overweight or obese, the need for a healthier diet has never been more important.

Focusing on reducing child obesity figures around the country, each state government has enforced its own healthy eating and drinking strategy which acts as a guide for tuckshops on what to serve and what not to serve its students.

 

Sweet potato fritters with Moroccan couscous and home made salsa.
Sweet potato fritters with Moroccan couscous and home made salsa.

Ms Slater said she follows the guideline quite closely, living by the mantra 'healthy mind, healthy body' but said it was also important to allow students an occasional sweet treat.

"We make everything from scratch including cookies and protein balls which we serve in small portions occasioanly - I cut the sugar out of it completely and make it gluten-free."

Ms Slater said she stocks very limited flavoured drinks and sweet treats; "You can't clear it out completely or the kids won't come to the canteen."

Last year, The Australian Schools Canteen Association revealed that 63 per cent of secondary school canteens believed the government's healthy food guidelines were causing the decline in profit.

In May 2017, ASCA chief executive David Edwards told news.com.au that since the government put out the guidelines and forced schools to stop selling products, "a lot of canteens are going out of business."

He said banning a large number of foods could mean the death of the school canteen.

Queensland's Ready Reckoner guideline provides schools with a classification guide using a traffic light colour system of red, amber and green for commonly supplied food and drinks.

In 2016 changes were made to the guideline which categorised all drinks at schools other than water, milk (plain or flavoured) and at least 99 per cent fruit or vegetable juice (non-carbonated) as red - this means it can only be served occasionally.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said the list doesn't include every possible type of food or drink and that schools can serve other items that may not be listed in the guidelines.

"Schools are encouraged to continue to work with their stakeholders to implement any required changes in consultation with the principal and the P & C president," the spokesman said.

In May last year, a spokeswoman for the Federal Health Department said the National Healthy School Canteen guidelines were put in place to help train canteen managers across Australia to make healthier food and drink choices for school canteens.

The school has revamped the canteen menu from fatty foods to tasty, healthier dishes including this Asian stir-fry with vegetables and rice noodles.
The school has revamped the canteen menu from fatty foods to tasty, healthier dishes including this Asian stir-fry with vegetables and rice noodles.


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