Fresh Tastes: A new healthy schools program for Canberra

Kate Freeman

Fresh tastes on are the horizon for Canberra primary schools, and I’m really excited about the future health of our children.

The latest health statistics indicate that a large proportion of our children are either overweight and obese – about one in four, to be exact – and this number is rising. Childhood has been repeatedly shown to be a critical time in the formation of healthy eating habits, and with children spending a large proportion of their time at school, it seems that a focused effort on changing the eating and drinking behaviours of our primary school age children couldn’t come soon enough.

At it seems that action is underway…recently, at Palmerston District Primary School, the ACT government launched their new ‘healthy food at school program,’ Fresh Tastes.

Officially kicked off with words from ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, and Minister for Education and Training Joy Burch, the program is designed to give local school students the opportunity to learn about the importance of good nutrition for health. The program has a wide-reaching effect, as it not only involves nutrition education for our children, but also offers financial support for preschools and primary schools, influence over the food and drink culture of our schools as well as what’s for sale in school canteens.

Fresh Tastes is also making a concentrated effort to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks. It’s aiming to phase out the sale of these drinks in ACT public schools and provide new water refill stations and reusable bottles to make it easier for students to drink water. Over the next 18 months, they aim to have a refill drink station in every public primary school in the ACT.

All public, Catholic and independent schools are encourage to participate in Fresh Tastes and work together with the ACT government to bring long term reform to the way food is eaten, sold and used in Canberra schools. Lots of help and incentive is on offer – for more information you should visit their website.

Palmerston District Primary School is one of the first schools to pilot the new program. Their Fresh Tastes school grant is being used to revamp their canteen (now called the ‘Palm Cafe’), establish new vegetable gardens and set up a new chicken coop. They’ll also spend the money on educating their students about healthy food and drink choices.

One of the things that I really love about the program is the engagement of other community organisations – Fresh Tastes has not only brought together schools, but businesses, community groups, parents organisations and more.

I personally believe that if we’re going to see a real change in the health and wellbeing of our children and reduce the obesity growth rate in our community, it’s going to take action from everyone. Obesity is multi-factorial. This means that there’s not just one factor to blame as the cause there are many, often interrelated factors and the problem is highly complex. It’s going to take small changes from everyone; government, business, industry, community, schools, family and beyond.

If we all do our little bit and are willing to work together, we can bring about the change we wish to see and preserve the long term health of our children and community.

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author