Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s efforts to improve the health of school children Inspiro, a not for profit health service operating in Melbourne’s east, have launched a far reaching project to tackle unhealthy school eating habits through positive encouragement, healthy food identification, advice for parents and healthy cafeteria options.
The objective of the project is to promote a healthy food culture and increase healthy foods brought to school. With obesity and unhealthy lifestyles becoming a growing concern among Australian families, tackling these issues at a young age has never been more important to the health of our children. It is a sad fact that most overweight or obese children struggle with their weight all throughout their lives; addressing the root causes at a young age gives them a far greater chance in later life.
With this in mind Eastern Health and Inspiro have been working on a healthy eating education program called Crunch and Munch an Awesome Lunch at schools located in the Yarra Ranges, one of the state’s most at risk areas. Inspiro, a not for profit health centre offering dentistry, physiotherapy, occupational health, diabetes education, dietetics, podiatry, speech therapy, aged care services have launched the program at Mt Evelyn Primary School.
Toby Ware from Inspiro’s health promotion team says, “The habits that children learn at school age often stay with them for life. Unfortunately, statistics from the Department of Health show that schools in the Yarra Ranges lag below the State average, leaving students more likely to maintain poor food habits.”
• Children in Yarra Ranges schools consume a significantly higher than average of sugary beverages.
• 91.2% of people in the Yarra Ranges are getting less than the recommended serves of vegetables per day and only 4.7% are consuming the recommended serves of fruit and vegetables
• Overweight and obesity are higher in the Yarra Ranges than the state average, with 39.3% of the population in the Yarra Ranges overweight (DOH, 2013).
Said one of the school children’s’ mothers, “when we moved here I was surprised that there wasn’t much of a focus on healthy or nude food for lunch boxes... A big leap was your program, as it altered the way Iliro chats to his peers about food.”
The program involves activities for students, parents, teachers, and cafeteria staff. Events include a logo competition; kids draw a healthy food logo that will go on all school lunch boxes, a healthy food taste testing competition and changes made by Inspiro’s dieticians to the school cafeteria menu.
The program ran as a pilot at Healesville primary school for six months, the school principal reporting that the children responded positively to eating healthier foods and that awareness of both parents and children increased exponentially.
Parents were surveyed at the conclusion of the project to assess the effectiveness of the initiative. 100% of respondents said that the After School Snack and Dietetics advice provided by Inspiro was useful, 83% were satisfied with the program and 66% said that their child’s willingness to try new foods had increased.
Feedback from parents was very positive; “The visual presentation of different foods hit home, it prompted great discussion. My kids were shocked to see the sugar content of some foods, and understood why we don’t eat it and why I’ll never buy it. This made them realise how far some of their friends need to go, and how the average diet needs improvement. It also opened up conversation about the influence media and advertising has on food choices.”
Toby Ware talked to us about the programs results and said;
“Being a father myself I understand just how difficult or even impossible it can be to get our children to try new foods, especially new foods that are healthy and contain less sugar.
Getting 66% of children at the Primary school to try new healthier foods was an immense success.”
Due to the success of the Healesville primary school program, Inspiro chose to adopt and implement the Crunch and Munch an Awesome Lunch program at Mt Evelyn Primary school.
Harming our children with sugary, salty, completely processed or overly fatty foods is not something any parent does intentionally but it is happening daily in schools all across Australia. Healthy eating education for both students and parents is an important part of any school curriculum and Inspiro and Toby hope to continue to roll this program out at schools in the Yarra Ranges.
Illiro’s mother said, “the competition opened up awareness at the school so he now has more ways to relate info to his friends. My son said sometimes he felt that he was missing out when his friends got ‘yummy treats in packets’ and compared it with his usual fruit and veggies, but now they make positive comments about his lunchbox, and he can help them make better choices.”
To support the program and see updates head to the Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/Crunch-and-Munch-an-Awesome-Lunch-1612696725695608/?fref=ts