Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

Schools and Early Childhood and Education Care (ECEC) settings are ideal places for promoting healthy eating. With millions of Australian children and staff attending these settings each day, schools and ECEC’s have a responsibility to ensure the food and drinks available and promoted on their premises support healthy food choices.

More comprehensive data on the healthiness of Australian schools and ECEC’s is currently being collected and analysed by researchers from the National Centre of Implementation Science at the University of Newcastle, with results expected to be published in early 2022.

Western Australia^

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** WA Healthy Food and Drink Policy requirements state that school canteens should have at least 60% ‘green’ (healthy) foods available, no more than 40% ‘amber’ foods available, no more than 2 days per week where savoury commercial ‘amber’ foods are available, and no ‘red’ foods or drinks available.

*** Policy areas met except policy criteria of “no ‘red’ food and drinks, even on an occasional basis”.

^ Each state/territory has different criteria in their healthy school food policies and so direct comparison between jurisdictions is not recommended

New South Wales^

Indicator Result Assessment* What was measured? Source

Proportion of schools that met all requirements of the Healthy School Canteen Strategy**

95%

Proportion of NSW Government schools (n=1,612) that have had at least one successful menu check since the launch of the Healthy School Canteen Strategy in 2017 (results as at 30 April 2021)***

NSW Education (2021)

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The Healthy School Canteens Strategy requires Government school canteens to offer no sugar-sweetened drinks for sale, at least 75% healthy Everyday foods and drinks on the menu; and meeting portion size and nutrition criteria for less healthy Occasional foods and drinks. Sugar-sweetened drinks and are not to be sold in NSW school canteens under the Strategy.

*** The menu check is an independent assessment requiring full compliance with the Healthy School Canteens Strategy.

^ Each state/territory has different criteria in their healthy school food policies and so direct comparison between jurisdictions is not recommended


Key Findings

  • Most states/territories in Australia do not monitor or report the healthiness of food available in schools and ECEC’s.
  • Western Australia and New South Wales governments are the only state governments to monitor and report adherence to their respective food policy / frameworks for schools.
  • School canteens in NSW government schools have shown very strong adherence the Healthy School Canteens Strategy.
    • The NSW Government monitors each NSW Government school’s achievement against the NSW Healthy School Canteen Strategy.
    • The majority of government schools in NSW (94.6% at 30 April 2021) have had a successful menu assessment at least once since the launch of the Strategy in 2017. Assessment is done by the NSW Menu Check Service.
    • A successful menu check requires 100% compliance with the Strategy including no sugar-sweetened drinks for sale, at least 75% healthy Everyday foods and drinks on the menu; and meeting portion size and nutrition criteria for less healthy Occasional foods and drinks.
    • The NSW Government provides both local and central support services for schools to assist them to meet the Strategy.
  • In Western Australia, school canteens have shown good progress towards meeting the WA Healthy Food and Drink Policy, with further work to be done to meet the policy criteria of offering no ‘red’ (unhealthy) food and drinks, even on an occasional basis.

Key Recommendations

  • Schools should be healthy places. They play an important role in developing children’s knowledge and habits relating to food. Schools also shape social norms and so provide an opportunity to improve children’s diets. The World Health Organisation calls on every school to be a health-promoting school.
  • Whilst all state/territory governments have healthy school food policies in place, there is a need for additional support and stronger incentives for schools to adopt comprehensive food and nutrition policies.
  • Schools canteens, vending machines and other food services should be regularly monitored to ensure adherence to state/territory policies.
  • State/territory governments should work towards a common food nutrition classification system to allow for comparison of school food environments across jurisdictions.

For more information

Websites

Visit the Obesity Evidence Hub for key evidence on obesity trends, impacts, prevention & treatment in Australia. Access evidence related to settings based approaches for children and adolescents.

Journal Articles

Reports

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

% of WA schools with canteens/food services that had a minimum of 60% healthy foods

≥80%

40 – 79%

< 40%

% of WA schools with canteens/food services that had unhealthy food or drinks even on an occasional basis

<10%

10 – 29%

≥ 30%

% of schools with canteens/food services that met all policy/strategy criteria (WA and NSW)

≥80%

40 – 79%

< 40%

% of WA schools with canteens/food services that met the majority of policy criteria

≥ 80%

40 – 79%

< 40%