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Freshly made food replaces packaged snacks in school canteens

Cabramatta Public School has a pop-up breakfast canteen offering healthy food. Photo: Ben RushtonSchool canteens will have to predominantly sell freshly made food such as sandwiches, stir fries and pastas instead of packaged snacks as part of an overhaul of menus designed to combat the worsening obesity problem in children.

Packaged food will now only be allowed if it has a minimum 3.5 star health rating and canteens will have to ensure three-quarters of their menus are made up of healthy everyday foods, such as fruit and vegetables, salads and stir fries, as part of the new strategy to be released on Tuesday.

Pies, sausage rolls and pizzas can still be sold every day as long as they are above the 3.5 star rating, the federal government system that gives packaged food a rating from .5 stars to 5 stars based on overall nutritional value.

Cake stalls or fundraisers will not be affected by the changes.

The strategy replaces the “traffic light” system in schools, which experts said was “overly complex and too narrow in its consideration of nutrition”.

Canteens are often money-spinners for public schools, with some operated by parent groups while others are run privately, making as much as $70,000 a year for their schools.

In 2015, privately operated canteens made $6.3 million for the NSW Department of Education, the most recent figures show.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said one in five NSW children between the ages of five and 16 was overweight or obese.

“Providing parents and children with healthier options in school canteens is just one of the ways we can move towards achieving my Premier’s Priority to reduce childhood obesity by 5 per cent by 2025,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said some brands of packaged pies and sausage rolls sold in schools already met the new standard.

“This is not about restricting choice – it’s about ensuring the choices of food available are healthy ones,” Mr Stokes said.

He said the strategy would be phased in over three years to give schools and the food industry time to adjust.

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