Canteens in small schools

The school environment can have a significant impact on a child’s knowledge and behaviour around healthy eating. The foods students are exposed to during meal breaks can help to cement healthy eating messages taught in the classroom, and providing a healthy food service at school can encourage students to eat well.

But how can you provide a healthy food service to students if your school is too small to run a traditional canteen?

When planning a food service in a small school setting, first consider the following:

How often?

Once a season

Seasonal food options can help kids learn about the link between paddock and plate. It’s also great for theming your food service to increase promotion – e.g. ‘warm up in winter’ with a soup or stew, or ‘a summer sizzle’ with a BBQ and frozen fruit cups. If the school runs a small vegetable garden, seasonal vegetables from the garden could be incorporated into the food offered.

Once a month

Operating a canteen once per month is a great option for small schools. Parent volunteers could prepare a meal/meals onsite on the day, and students and staff could sit down together to eat. Alternatively, kids could be involved in food preparation through a healthy and simple cooking class each month.

Once a fortnight/week

Consider a lunch bag ordering system where parents can order lunches for their kids ahead of time. If there are no kitchen facilities on site, the service could be outsourced to a local café. The café can then deliver the lunch bags to the school on the day. This system would work monthly too.

How many menu options?

The number of menu options will differ depending on the resources available. It is always wise to start small (1-2 options) and work up from there. Consider the demographics of the students at your school and be sure this is reflected in food options. Keeping items very basic (but still healthy!) is the simplest way to do this. Changes can be made over time if need be.

How will the food be prepared?

If the school has a kitchen facility, preparation can occur there. Alternatively, you may need to consider outsourcing to a local café, such as through the lunch bag ordering system.