Ballarat’s Mount Rowan Secondary College is on a canteen refresh journey

Monday 20 June, 2022

For the last 18 months, Ballarat’s Mount Rowan Secondary College has been on a journey to refresh its canteen.

With the launch of a new Victoria-wide healthy food and drink movement, Vic Kids Eat Well, the school is now looking to involve students in its healthy food and drink efforts.

The school also works in close partnership with Ballarat Community Health, where a local health promoter introduced Vic Kids Eat Well and supports the school as it weaves sustainability into its healthy eating practices.

The school offers years seven to 12 and has a cohort of about 580 students across two campuses.

Principal Seona Murnane prioritises providing a healthy food environment for students.  

“We take our duty of care seriously and wanted to support students in accessing healthier food. We also happily responded to parent requests for improved canteen options for kids,” Miss Murnane said.

“Innovatively, we decided to place our food tech assistant (Chloe Hewitt) in both the classroom and our widely used canteen.”

Miss Murnane said Mrs Hewitt connected students’ food tech lessons with daily school life.

“We now offer daily canteen meal specials where Chloe cooks things like big trays of chicken pasta bake with vegetables, baked potatoes with all the trimmings and vegetarian pizzas. While these foods are really healthy, we also demonstrate that food isn’t just a ‘heat and serve’ concept. We like to reduce packaging too,” Miss Murnane said.

Food trays

Mrs Hewitt said the school was also focused on seasonal cooking.

“In class and the canteen, we show students that food is about cooking from fresh produce. By incorporating our school veggie garden into lessons, we help students understand that food tastes better and is more affordable when it’s in season. We also talk about water being a more affordable and healthier drink of choice,” Mrs Hewitt said.

“Our canteen efforts have also been about showcasing colours and delicious options to motivate students while shifting their focus away from junk food. I do things like chopped fruit in recyclable cups for a dollar, which is a great way promote other options.

Fruit cups

“We now have some students buying our canteen cooked meals to take home for dinner to show their parents. I also take leftovers into classes and students get to try a variety of colourful vegetables that are cooked into delicious meals. This addresses food waste too,” she said.

Mount Rowan Secondary College has also reduced high sugar drinks and cut caffeine from its canteen. As for feedback after all the changes, comments from the students have been positive.

“Just the other day I bumped into a group of girls eating frozen yoghurt with real fruit from our canteen and made onsite. They were really pleased to have access to something so delicious and healthy,” Miss Murnane said.

“Joining Vic Kids Eat Well will be about tapping into a knowledge base around healthy eating. It will be great to have access to more resources to support our changes. We’re also looking forward to being part of something bigger and working more closely with our health promoter at Ballarat Community Health.

“Next we’re wanting students to demand more changes and seek us out. By joining the Vic Kids Eat Well movement, we hope it will be a chance for our students to get more involved with healthy eating ideas and requesting changes.”

Tameaka Lakey, Health Promotion Officer at Ballarat Community Health, supports the school to review menu options and will help integrate Vic Kids Eat Well principles into existing practices.

“I’m looking forward to working with the secondary school to consider the four healthy food and drink ‘bites’ that are changes offered as part of the new Vic Kids Eat Well movement,” Ms Lakey said.

As part of the program, Mount Rowan Secondary College will have access to a promotional pack to display in their canteen and to share in school communications. Vic Kids Eat Well will help promote their efforts and engage the school community more widely.