The 'Sustainable Sandwich' Effect
Mar 02, 2018

A recent surge in the use of food delivery apps UberEats and Deliveroo among a number of Australian private schools prompts an important question about the food culture in our children’s schoolyards. Healthy lunches have been on the mind of parents for eternity. But while, kitchen tables around the country swap out the cheese toasties for something a little healthier, schools need to ask: Are we lagging behind?

The benefits of bringing sustainability to schools are twofold. Firstly, healthy eating habits need to be instilled in children at an early age and are crucial in preventing obesity and other health issues. And secondly, schools can be major culprits when it comes to food waste. Just like the parents spending their dollars on sustainable lunch boxes and water bottles, schools too need to recognise the role they play before the temptation of fast food takes over entirely.

According to the Australian Department of Environment and Energy, food waste costs the Australian economy approximately $20 billion each year. Consumers throw out 3.1 million tonnes of edible food while commercial and industrial food waste adds another 2.2 million tonnes.

Making sustainability fun for children

The Tackling Avoidable Food Waste in Western Australian Schools report outlines that parents, students, and schools have to work together to manage this issue. But like all good habits, sustainability too can appear dull for children and require a little makeover to appeal to them. Here’s where schools can step in. Running sustainability programs that highlight the detriments of food waste and the importance of eating better can be a major step in changing attitudes. When children learn these skills in school, they will be more likely to apply them outside of the classroom. Think composting, veggie gardens and recycling initiatives — simple yet outstandingly effective.

Revamp the canteen menu

Buying lunch or a snack from the canteen is as much about culture as it about the food itself. While bringing home-cooked meals to schools is always the ideal scenario, children always have and always will be tempted to head to the canteen line every now and again. So if we can’t remove the temptation, the responsibility falls upon schools to refresh the meals they are offering. Greasy chips, fizzy drinks, and unhealthy sweets don’t have to be the only items on the daily menu. Implementing a menu that is healthy, sustainable and low on waste
should be a major imperative for schools today. It’ll also help the school canteens stand out from the growing competition of food delivery companies that are becoming accessible to students in today’s digital age.

What can parents do to help? The battle can’t be left to schools entirely so here are some ways you can help:

  • Involve children in the lunch making process by cooking things they enjoy and are
    easy for them to make on their own
  • Encourage children to discuss the kinds and quantities of meals they like
  • Don’t over pack
  • Make a family lunch plan for the week
  • Swap a disposable plastic water bottle for a glass one they can reuse
  • Throw out the plastic containers for a reusable glass one or biodegradable lunch