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Fifteen pickles and a plum

Published:
26/10/2017
Author:
Think Local

Just one in 20 children aged between five to 15 eat enough vegetables each day, according to the recent report What NSW children eat and drink, from Health Minister Brad Hazzard and NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant. 
It also showed that one in five adolescents is overweight or obese and they rely on unhealthy snack foods for energy. 
Thus, one of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's priorities is to reduce overweight and obesity rates of children by 2025, and she recently released the Healthy School Canteens Strategy to replace the 'traffic light' system in schools. 
Under the former model, Green was healthy, Amber was mid-range (which meant 'choose carefully') and Red was, generally, high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or salt and low in nutrients. 

Fresh fruit, vegetables, sandwiches, salads and stir fries will now make up at least 75 per cent of the new overhauled canteen menus, and packaged goods with no less than a minimum 3.5 Health Star Rating will be offered as 'occasional foods'. 

However, schools such as Redlands, Mosman Church of England Preparatory School and Northern Beaches Christian School are going above and beyond, providing healthy lunches Jamie Oliver would be proud of. 
Vietnamese rice piper rolls, turmeric lattes, pina colada frappes and poached soba noodle salads are now in several local canteens, compared to the grey mush of old. 
Education Minister Rob Stokes tells North Shore Living, "It's so important children get the proper nutrients. It's not about restricting choice - it's about ensuring available food choices are healthy." 
Redlands has canteens on its Junior and Senior campuses - both of which are rated five star under the new system - and almost all the nutritious dishes are prepared daily. 

Principal of Redlands, Dr Peter Lennox tells North Shore Living the canteen's healthy offerings "reinforce the healthy living habits students learn about in their physical education classes and practise in extracurricular and lunchtime activities." 
Liz Loveridge, Redlands' senior canteen manager, explains menu staples and seasonal options teach students to make healthy choices "whether it is fresh, vegetable-based soups in winter or fresh salads in summer." 
Chicken and mushroom soup has been the most hotly demanded dish at Redlands recently, and the 'munch boxes' -which include celery, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, hummus and gluten-free rice crackers - are always popular. 

On the Northern Beaches, Grounded Cafe at Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS) in Terrey Hills offers gastronomical gratification, with options such as smashed avocado on artisan toast and vegan salted caramel chocolate mousse, which is free from gluten, dairy and refined sugars. 
Laura Caristo manages the family-owned café, which runs as a separate entity to the school and is responsible for feeding approximately 1400 students and 160 teachers daily. She tells North Shore Living, "The challenge is that kids aren't like adults, so if you feed them something they think is 'too healthy', they just won't eat it. 

"We've listened to what the students and parents want, and used that in our approach." 
A popular dish is the Japanese soba noodle salad, with poached chicken, fresh herbs and avocado, and sweeter treats like the homemade bliss balls in caramel and lamington flavour regularly sell out. 
"Things that also do really well are the bite-sized snacks, like boiled eggs and peeled carrots," she adds, "and we're introducing punnets of cherry tomatoes next term with tzatziki. 
"Students have also requested slushies, so we're doing those in summer, which are all natural and made from fruit juice only." 
Anastasia Mironova has been running the canteen, Fresh, at Mosman Church of England Preparatory School for three years and on average cooks 112 meals a day. 

"In this job, many canteen managers don't go to the food fairs or focus on the latest trends like using wholemeal flour and avoiding sugar - and they'd rather just order in sausages than make their own, because it's a lot of work. 
"But I know every single ingredient in all our meals because we make them from scratch - from our frozen yoghurts and fruit frappes, to our home-made pizzas and build-your-own quesadillas. "I'm really proud of my canteen and the meals we produce." 
Requests to interview numerous North Shore public schools about the Healthy School Canteens Strategy were denied. 

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