NSW students are spending $1 million more at the school canteen compared to two years ago, as menus reveal many of the top-earning tuckshops are selling a wide range of unhealthy foods and drinks, including some that have been banned.
Public school canteens run by external operators earned a total of $6.6 million in 2016, significantly more than their reported income of $5.6 million in 2014, Department of Education figures show, leading to calls for greater monitoring of the foods being sold to students.
The canteen data includes income from 404 of the 2209 public schools across the state. Schools with unlicensed canteens, which are generally run by parent groups, are not included in the figures.
The data reveals that many of the highest-earning licensed canteens are in lower socio-economic suburbs, while canteens in some of Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs are often run by school or parent groups.
Bonnyrigg High in Sydney’s west has the highest-earning licensed canteen, with an income of more than $80,000 in 2016, followed by Cabramatta High, which earned $70,500.
When adjusted for the number of students at each school, Moorefield Girls High in Sydney’s south has the highest canteen income, earning $99.41 per student in 2016, followed by Gilgandra Public, which earned $64.11 per student, and Kingsgrove High, which earned $58.77 per student.
Rosemary Stanton, a leading nutritionist who has been involved in canteen policy since 1968, says the growing amount of money spent at canteens is “not surprising” because of the rise of dual-income families and the “much greater influence of snacking these days”.
“When this much money is being taken from kids, we need to take a really good look at what it’s being taken for,” Dr Stanton said.
Up to half of all children in some Sydney suburbs are obese, according to data released earlier this year.
“It’s interesting that quite wealthy suburbs such as many on the north shore don’t use [the licensed canteen] system,” Dr Stanton said.
The number of licensed canteens in NSW schools has risen steadily from about 357 in 2014 to 387 in 2015 and 404 in 2016.
A number of school canteen menus continue to offer sugary drinks, which were banned from public schools in 2007. Photo: Supplied
A spokesman for the department did not respond to questions about whether public school canteens are monitored by the government.
“All canteens, including licensed canteens, are required to implement the department’s Healthy School Canteen Strategy,” he said.
The strategy, which is being phased in over three years from 2017, requires three-quarters of canteen menus to be made up of healthy, fresh foods and retains the ban on sugary drinks, including soft drinks, flavoured waters, energy drinks and iced teas, that was implemented in NSW public schools in 2007.
However, some licensed canteen menus still include a range of sweetened drinks, including diet Coca-Cola, Powerade, Dare iced coffee, and iced teas.
“While the licensee administers the canteen, the principal maintains control over the agreement including the types of food sold,” the spokesman said.
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