Canteens making money whilst selling healthy food kids love! Yes it can be done. The Root Cause is proud to showcase Healthy Canteens that are doing this.
Welcome to this edition of Showcasing Healthy Canteens. So far we have showcased 2 incredible canteens – Kylie Bendetti’s Canteen from Casuarina Street Primary School in Katherine, NT, and Kathy’s Kitchen Canteen at Blairmount Public School, NSW. Now we are delighted to share yet another passionate lady changing the health and lives of children, teachers and parents at a school.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful Hallie Burgess from Tyalla Primary School Canteen, Coffs Harbour, NSW. I am so excited to share this showcase. Hallie is not only proving kids will love healthy food but I believe she may have solved a problem so many canteens face – the problem of the lack of volunteers. Be sure to read on to find out more about this.
I’m going to start this showcase on Tyalla Public School by sharing these words of Tina from the School P&C which capture the importance of the school canteen.
Food is such a unifier. We’re really seeing the canteen is bringing unity to the school.
The P&C, Hallie, the kids share
This video shows you just how much the whole school loves having a healthy canteen. Hallie has support from the P&C, the teachers, the students, and the Principal.
Q: How long has your canteen been offering healthy food choices for the children?
Our Canteen has been offering healthy food choices from 2015 when I started.
Q: What was the catalyst for changing to a healthy menu?
I came from Melbourne and owning my own Organic baby food business and gluten free catering business. I loved the challenge to change the menu and getting the kids to like it which they did parents too. We are in a low socioeconomic area so it was important I could give great nutrition at school.
Q: How did you go about transitioning to the healthier menu?
We started making our own pies, sausage rolls, chicken burgers and beef burgers, adding lots of veggies. We added salad to our homemade fish and chicken nuggets along with baked potatoes . We got rid of white bread and served a dark rye bread made by our local baker.
Q: Can you share with us your current menu
All food on our menu is homemade using local produce and 100% love!
Q: What are your top 3 most popular items?
Our ice cups are probably our biggest sellers. We use 50% juice, 20% vegetable juice and 30% water – the kids don’t know they are getting spinach, beetroot, carrot, kale and sweet potato in their ice cups.
Our most popular lunches are:
- dragon ball salads
- burrito bowls which have fresh coleslaw, salad of cucumber and tomato. We add black beans to the meat mix along with lots of veggies
- chicken burgers which are filled with carrot, zucchini and garlic .
Sushi is also a favourite and our Japanese bento boxes with brown rice and chicken.
Fresh fruit and salad sell really well too.
Our pies and sausage rolls also sell well with local baker made pastry and filled with meat and vegetables.
Q: How do the students and parents view the school canteen. Do they see it as a treat for the children or is it more an every day thing?
I think most parents view the Canteen as an everyday day thing but we do make our own jelly and ice blocks so the kids do get to have treats if they want (they don’t know it’s healthy).
Q: What has been the students response?
The students were pretty amazing. I engaged them in helping me make the food and by always talking about how important it is. I have up to 6 kids a day helping out before school and during lunch and recess so they get to see and taste the goodness and of course take it back out into the school yard.
Q: What was the parents response?
Parents have been great and a few often order dinner for them to take home ????
Q: How have teachers responded to the change?
Teachers are great too. We have heaps of orders daily from them and they are 100% supportive of our healthy Canteen. We work closely with the teachers and do special food days which go along with their teaching. They have just set up a recycling committee and asked for us to be involved which is great.
Q: What does the School Principal have to say?
Q: How many orders do you receive a day? Is this more or less than the old menu?
We open 5 days for lunch and recess and have 351 students. We do lunch at 11.15am and recess at 1.45 pm.
We do around 30 orders but we can get up to 60 and over 100 on our meal deal days.
Each day we have 7 options on our counter including salad cups, frittata, homemade jelly cups, homemade wholemeal pizza bites, fresh fruit yoghurt cups, fresh fruit pieces, sushi, pasta bowls, dip cups with veg sticks and ice cups. We make pizza bites daily with our own home made vegetable packed pizza sauce on wholemeal French sticks.
Q: How is the canteen run? Eg. P&C, volunteers, tender etc
We are a P&C run Canteen.
Q: How many people do you have working in the canteen?
The P&C employ me for 26-28 hours a week. I have a great team of volunteers with the occasional day where I do it alone. We have 2 volunteers on 2 days a week and 1 for the others days. Plus there are also the children who help out (I have up to 6 kids a day helping out before school and during lunch and recess so they get to see and taste the goodness and of course take it back out into the school yard).
Comment from Bel: As we’ve travelled Australia and spoken to canteens and P&C’s, one of the biggest issues many have faced is the lack of volunteers. Tyalla’s approach of having the kids volunteered is awesome. I asked Hallie more about how this works. So here goes:
- students need to be over 10 and must have a permission slip signed by parents
- the students must let their teacher know they wish to be rostered on for the week
- students help in the morning with stocking the fridge, opening and putting away deliveries, and some food preparation activities
- at lunch and recess, the rostered on students help out with serving, including the handling of money (there is a whole training element of this with the kids, including them needing to empty their own pockets before coming into the canteen and there’s signs in the canteen about it being under surveillance)
- the kids who help out in the canteen also get the opportunity to be involved in creating menu items. If they have a food they like at home and a recipe, they can bring it in and cook it with Hallie. If it’s liked, then it can be added onto the menu
- in return for working in the canteen for the week, the children get to place a lunch order on Monday but the condition is this must be one of the fresh made foods made by Hallie, not the fridge items like flavoured milk.
Personally I really think Tyalla have hit on something here. Not only does this solution go towards solving the volunteer problem, it is a great learning of life skills for the students. They get to learn about food safety, preparation, what it takes to work in a food business, handling of money, responsibility, and in a way, gives them power too because they get to be more actively involved in what’s on the menu. The other added bonus is that many of the students who volunteer are children who experience difficulties in the playground, so it is helping solve that problem for the children too and making them feel wanted. Hallie says there are kids who regularly help her out and she always makes them feel extra special.
Q: Do your orders come in manually or are you using software to help manage orders? If so, what software are you using?
All of our orders come over the counter and a lot of the parents will send a note saying you choose or let the kids choose when they come in. I also write a lot of orders for the kids because it’s gives me a chance to find out what foods types they like and I can use it for inspiration with our counter food.
Q: What government policy does your canteen work to?
We are the pilot school for NSW Health’s new Healthy Canteen Strategy and we work closely with them. I was also nominated to be on the Government’s Advisory Committee, which is great. NSW Healthy Canteen Guidelines
Q: How do you reduce the impact on the environment for things like plastic cups, ice blocks, salad containers etc? Where do you source them from?
We have just been donated by an amazing lady I’ve never met a whole range of ikea plates bowls cups and cutlery and the stage 2-3 students are raising money to buy 100 cups so we can use them to make our ice cups with. So far the students have bought back everything.
We also have a recycling set up where the kids bring back their water and milk bottles and I recycle them once a fortnight. We have $59.80 in the account so far and this will go towards something for the whole school at the end of the year. We are in the process of getting cards where every time a student brings their recycling back the get a stamp when the get 15 they get a free ice cup.
Q: Does serving healthier options cost you more in money?
Changing to healthy food has just meant we spend more on fresh produce and less on suppliers.
Q: Does serving healthier options take longer for you to prepare?
Lucky I’ve been a chef for the last 25 years because the food prep for the Canteen has grown but then again, so have the number of orders.
But like most Canteen managers, we go the extra mile because we love what we do.
I have volunteers who come in and prep the sausage rolls or the bolognese or the jelly. That’s their thing, so it’s takes a load off me. We usually make up a lot of serves and freeze them down fresh.
Q: Is your canteen making more or less money than when using the old menu?
The end of year report has put us in profit since I’ve started as opposed to debit the 2 years prior. We have pretty much doubled our takings each week since I started.
Q: Do you have any tips to help other canteens transition to healthier menus?
- Just make the changes, start with obvious ones like making the bread more nutritious, making your own sausage rolls and pies
- Get the kids involved. Make something, ask them if they like it
- Hide veggies in everything – the kids don’t even know they are in there (eg. our muffins have grated veg in them)
- Cook the food in the morning when the kids are around to smell the deliciousness coming from the canteen
Q: Do you have a favourite healthy recipe which the kids love that you can share with other canteens wishing to offer healthier options? If so, can you please share the ingredients, method and a picture too?
My Chicken Burger is a huge hit. To get a copy of the recipe, fill in your name and email address here and it will be emailed straight to you:
What I love About Tyalla
I love the approach they have taken to solving the volunteer problem by inviting the kids to volunteer. You can read about that above. And I love that the Tyalla Primary School Canteen even provides healthy food for the school’s sporting events.
From our experience and from talks with many parents right around Australia, many school sporting events are usually serviced by the sporting venue’s canteen (picture loads of lollies, ice blocks, pies, sausage rolls etc) or in some cases, the events are used as fundraisers for the school with cake stalls etc being held. At Tyalla, the food provided by the canteen is always healthy, even for their sporting events. I found this on their facebook page.