NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy

The NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy (The Strategy) increases the availability of healthy food and drink options in school canteens to make the healthy choice, the easy choice. It is mandatory for all NSW Government schools with a canteen to meet the requirements of the Strategy by adhering to the Food and Drink Criteria (see below).

While the Strategy is not mandatory for non-government schools, these schools are encouraged and supported to adopt the Strategy and many have chosen to do so.

As of November 2020, just over 90% of all NSW Government schools with a canteen were meeting the Strategy.

To learn more, including what is covered under the Strategy and how it links to the NSW Department of Education’s Nutrition in School’s Policy, visit the Healthy School Canteen website.

The Food and Drink Criteria

The Food and Drink Criteria (the Criteria) applies to all food and drink sold in the canteen including on the regular menu, over the counter, in specials and meal deals, ordered online and in vending machines accessed by students. The Criteria are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.

The Criteria are listed in the box below:

Sugar-sweetened drinks are not for sale in the canteen or in vending machines.
Everyday food and drinks make up at least ¾ (75%) of the menu and Occasional foods and drinks not more than ¼ (25%) of the menu.
Health Star Rating (HSR) of ≥ 3.5 stars required on all packaged Occasional foods and drinks (except diet drinks) and Everyday breakfast.
Portion limits apply for all Occasional foods and drinks and for Everyday hot foods, ≥ 99% juices and flavoured milk.  
• Only Everyday foods and drinks should be marketed and promoted in the canteen.

Everyday foods and drinks

Everyday meals, snacks and drinks are healthy choices from the five food groups: this includes grains (e.g. bread, rice, pasta, cereal), vegetables, fruit, milk, yoghurt, cheese, and/or alternatives and lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.

Occasional foods and drinks

Occasional meals, snacks and drinks are mostly high in energy, saturated fat, sugars and/or salt and often have little nutritional value.

Examples include cakes, sweet muffins, sweet biscuits, pies, sausage rolls, processed meats, packaged or commercial pizza, salty snacks and diet drinks.

Sugar-sweetened drinks

Sugar-sweetened drinks are non-milk drinks with any type and any amount of sugar added to them.

Examples include:

  • soft drinks, flavoured waters (sparkling or still), vitamin waters, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • iced teas, fruit drinks (less than 99% juice), cordial, slushies (with less than 99% juice)
  • coconut water (plain or flavoured), ice-blocks (with less than 99% fruit juice) and jelly

For more information on the Food and Drink Criteria

Food and Drink Criteria Booklet (PDF 2MB) uses a practical step-by-step approach to explain the Food and Drink Criteria.

The booklet includes a Menu Ready Reckoner that lists a range of foods and drinks commonly sold in canteens and shows their classification, indicates if they require a Health Star Rating of ≥ 3.5 stars and any portion size limits that apply.

Food and Drink Criteria Booklet Order Form – complete to obtain a hard copy of the booklet (NSW schools only).

Healthy Food Finder is an online database of packaged foods and drinks that allows the user to look up a product, check its classification and HSR (if required) and find out if it meets the requirements of the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.

Sample menus and templates – five different example menus that meet the 75% Everyday Criteria. The sample menus include:

  • K-12 basic preparation and cook canteen
  • Primary heat and serve canteen
  • Regional or small primary school
  • Secondary commercial kitchen
  • Secondary high-proportion packaged food menu

Each sample menu has an accompanying menu template that allows schools to customise to their needs.

Recipes that meet the Strategy

Download a copy of the Healthy Kids booklet:

10 Everyday Recipes

Download a copy of the booklet:

10 Grain-based Snack Recipes

You can also access a range of recipes that meet the Strategy by clicking on the List of NSW Everyday Recipes – these recipes are available to members and non-members.

Promotional ideas

The LookBook shows how five NSW schools that are meeting the Strategy have used marketing and promotion to increase sales of healthier food and drink choices in their canteen.

Case studies

The healthy school canteen case studies page features a range of NSW schools that are successfully running a healthy school canteen.

Menu Check

This is a free service that independently verifies whether school canteens are meeting the requirements of the Strategy.

Schools and licensed providers that pass a menu check receive a ‘Great Choice’ badge and achievement certificate that is valid for two years.

To access the menu check application form visit the Menu Check Service page on the Healthy School Canteen website.

Support available

  • Primary schools: Each Local Health District (LHD) has a team of dedicated health promotion officers who assist local primary school canteens to meet the requirements of the Strategy. To find your local contact person, view the LHD Health Promotion Officer listing.
  • All NSW Schools: Contact the free Healthy Food Information Service by phone on 1800 930 966 between 9am-3pm weekdays, or via email at healthyfood@health.nsw.gov.au
  • Healthy Kids Members: Call HKA for any canteen-related question; we are here to help. You can also like the HKA Facebook page to receive updates, menu ideas and more.