Information for School Canteens Reopening in NSW

The following information aims to support school canteens during the transition back to full face-to-face teaching in Term 2. Beyond these tips, those who are responsible for canteen operations are encouraged to seek advice from the school Principal and make decisions based on the needs of the school community.

Planning for Reopening

  • Contact your suppliers – check for any shortages or changes to deliveries; current and expected.
  • Consider a staged opening – e.g. offer lunch service only; or open 1-2 days per week.
  • Contact the principal – find out expected student numbers so you can reopen based on demand. 
  • Link in with school staff – find out the ‘whole of school’ plan for transitioning back to normal. 
  • Minimise the use of cash – e.g. use online ordering or EFTPOS. 
  • Plan how to communicate to the school community – e.g. letting them know the canteen is open and what menu items are on offer.

For more advice on managing the transition back to full canteen operations visit the Healthy Kids Association.

Maintaining Profits and Reducing Waste

  • Use a pre-ordering system – (where possible) this can reduce food waste.
  • Promote the canteen – use the school’s communication channels to advertise what you are doing to provide safe food service for students and volunteers.
  • Contact the Principal – Find out expected student numbers so that you can order the right amount of stock and prepare the right amount of food to reduce waste.
  • Look for long-shelf-life alternatives – e.g, buy long-life milk and canned goods.
  • Consider cooking items in bulk – freeze these items for future use. Good examples include bolognese and fried rice.

Hygiene Practices

In addition to normal hygiene, health and safety practices, consider implementing the following:

  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and sanitising – clean surfaces thoroughly with water and detergent.
  • Maintain frequent hand washing – e.g. when entering and leaving the canteen; between each food handling task; after going to the bathroom; and after touching your face or hair.
  • Ensure appropriate glove use – when preparing and handling food.
  • Use tongs – to avoid touching food and packaging where possible.
  • Maintain social distancing measures
  • Have hand sanitiser and/or hand washing stations – at the canteen for students and staff.
  • Create a barrier – between students and the food by covering it and moving it back from the counter front where possible.
  • Designate one staff member to handle money – and the other(s) to serve (where possible).
  • Introduce staggered collection times – this will reduce the number of students in the canteen.
  • Canteen staff with a cold, cough or flu-like symptoms should not come to work.

For more information on Food Safety please see the NSW Food Authority Website.
For the latest information on health and hygiene advice to schools visit the Department of Education Website.

Meeting the Strategy

Menu changes may be needed to help with over Term 2. You will not need to complete another menu check after these changes, but your menu should still meet the Strategy. You may choose to have a limited menu, to make sure your menu still meets the Strategy, please consider the following:

  • Use Everyday base recipes that can be turned into multiple Everyday dishes e.g bolognese sauce can be used for pasta Bolognese, pasta bake, burritos, lasagne, melts, jacket potatoes, pockets or even pizza topping.
  • Try to keep the 3/4 Everyday, 1/4 Occasional ratio in your hot items as well as in snacks and cold items.
  • Look for a Health Star Rating of at least 3.5 stars if you need to buy a commercial or packaged product that you’d normally make in the canteen.

The following support is available to help you meet the Strategy during the transition:

Healthy Kids Members: email
Primary schools: contact your local health promotion officer
All NSW schools: call the Healthy Food Information Service on 1800 930 966 between 9am-3pm weekdays, or email

The Healthy Food Finder is available for you to check if an item meets the criteria.
For more information about the Strategy, visit the
NSW Healthy School Canteens Strategy Website.

For a printable PDF version of this page click here.