The Star Choice™ Food Registration Program was implemented in Western Australia in 1998 as a strategy of the WA School Canteen Project partnership with the Heart Foundation of Australia (WA Division) and the Department of Health, and was funded by Healthway.
The registration of products by the WA School Canteen Association (WASCA) is in conjunction with The Federation of Canteens in Schools (FOCiS) national registration program. FOCiS represents canteens nationally. Its goal is to promote and facilitate the provision of nutritious foods that promote health in school canteens throughout Australia. In order to achieve this, FOCiS has developed nutrient criteria to assess food products. Each State and Territory School Canteen Association has contributed to the FOCiS nutrient criteria used to assess products. WASCA assesses products for registration using these national criteria.
The FOCiS nutrient criteria have been set as the benchmark criteria for the WA Government’s Healthy Food and Drinks Policy.
The role of school canteens
School canteens are significant sources of food for many students. WASCA shares the FOCiS philosophy that school canteens differ from other food shops in the community in that they should not only provide foods which supply essential nutrients to ensure normal growth of children and adolescents, but should also reinforce the nutrition component of the school curriculum in a manner consistent with the health promoting school framework.
Canteens can provide a positive role model to students who are developing their eating habits. Star Choice™ Registered Products makes it easier for canteens to meet these goals.
School canteens open at various times during the day including before school, recess and lunch breaks. They are generally accountable to school parent bodies or school boards or councils and are operated by a combination of paid staff and voluntary help. They provide a service for students and in many cases aim to earn a profit which is used for the benefit of the school. The Star Choice™ Registered Products Canteen Buyer’s Guide was produced in response to requests from these bodies for guidance about which processed food products are suitable for sale in school canteens. The Guide is distributed to all schools operating canteens and many community organisations and has now been colour coded to GREEN and AMBER to reflect the Government “Traffic Light” coding.
The Star Canteen Accreditation Program (STARCAP2) is an initiative of WASCA in partnership with the Heart Foundation of Australia (WA Division) and the Department of Health. It awards schools operating healthy canteens by using a star-rating basis of three, four or five stars. The use of recommended core foods and Star Choice Registered Products makes it easier for schools to reach the percentages of ‘GREEN’ sales required in the menu component of the program in order to gain accreditation.
Which foods are recommended for sale in school canteens?
WASCA, together with all other School Canteen Associations, promotes food being available in school canteens that supports the consumption of a diet consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Childhood and adolescence are important periods of growth and development, and for these to occur optimally, adequate energy and nutrients must be eaten.
When planning school canteen menus, emphasis should be given to the following foods that contribute significantly to meeting students’ nutritional needs:
- breads and cereal foods, eg. rice, pasta
- fruit – fresh, canned, frozen
- vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned
- milk, cheese, yoghurt, including reduced fat varieties
- lean meat, skin free poultry, fish, eggs, baked beans
and other legumes and nuts (according to school policy).
It is suggested schools refer to these guidelines together with those of the Healthy Food and Drinks Policy when planning menus.
Criteria for product registration
The national criteria used to register products is regularly reviewed resulting in many new sub-categories of products being created in response to advances in food technology since the setting of the original criteria and the recommendations of the revised Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children & Adolescents.
The criteria used to assess the suitability of products for registration address levels and types of fat, salt (sodium) sugar and fibre in foods and beverages because excessive amounts of fat, salt and sugar and inadequate amounts of fibre are associated with many of the chronic health problems suffered by Australians. Some categories of products also have a criterion for calcium, as this is an important mineral for the growth and development of strong healthy bones and teeth in children and adolescents. The revised criteria in some categories also stipulates a maximum portion size and/or kilojoule allowance.
The criteria does not address food additives/preservatives as their addition or otherwise to food and beverages is controlled by the Government body Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Information regarding additives and preservatives may be found at www.foodstandards.gov.au.
The Star Choice™ Products Register makes it easier for schools to stock and promote healthier choices of traditional convenience products, e.g. pastries, frankfurters, burger patties, formed vegetable products such as hash browns. Although these types of products may be considered more nutritional choices than their regular ounterparts, the majority of them are ‘AMBER’ It is recommended their availability should be limited and that they should only supplement the menu choices, the majority of which should be derived from the core ‘GREEN’ foods listed above. The Government’s Healthy Food and Drinks Policy is consistent with this.
The Star Choice™ Products Register and Canteen Buyer’s Guide lists mainly processed foods that meet the criteria and has its limitations. Only products submitted have been assessed. There is no doubt that there are other foods available in the marketplace that meets the nutritional criteria. The assumption should not be made that a food that is not listed does not meet the criteria.
As more products are assessed, the Star Choice™ Products Register will be regularly updated on the website. The Canteen Buyer’s Guide will be updated twice each year. Schools will also be informed of new products each quarter in the Association’s newsletter CanTeam. Companies are invited to advertise registered products or services in the newsletter and Buyer’s Guide. Contact the office for information regarding availability of space, deadlines, required advertisement format and cost.
The Healthy Choice Food Expo held in conjunction with the annual Canteen Conference during the July school holidays each year, provides an opportunity for Star Choice™ Registered Products to be viewed and sampled.
Food manufacturers requesting further information regarding product registration or a registration kit should contact WASCA on 08 9264 4999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to browse the Star Choice™ Products Register.