Q. Are children permitted in the school canteen?

Children are not permitted in the canteen; including young children of staff and volunteers, as well as school age children.


  • Check your insurance policy as the majority of canteen/P&C insurance does not cover students or children
  • The canteen is a workplace; under the Occupational Safety and Health Act it is not permissible to introduce a hazard into the workplace. Young children especially would be considered a hazard
  • Hot ovens, cook-tops, boiling water and sharp knives can make the canteen a hazardous place for children
  • Under the Food Standards Code, the canteen must ensure that anyone who is handling food has the skills and knowledge to prepare food safety; young children cannot be expected to have necessary skills in food safety and food hygiene matters.

The only exception to this is students accessing the canteen as part of a supervised school activity linked to the curriculum such as cooking session with teacher supervision; or by special arrangement with canteen staff e.g. VET students may arrange work experience in the canteen. If this is the case in your school, we recommend canteen staff meet with the P&C and principal to make this decision together and determine an implementation plan.

Q. Can we display student allergy information in the canteen including photos?

With permission from parents/guardians, school canteens may choose to display the students name, photo and the foods they are allergic to, in the canteen as a reminder to canteen staff and volunteers. This can be done by displaying the student’s ASCIA Action Plan (which also includes a photo of the student). The ASCIA Action Plan should be in clear view of staff working in the canteen, but not visible to customers.

Q. Can we make food at home to sell in the canteen e.g. soup, muffins?

No. Canteens and other food service businesses should not sell (or provide) foods made at home by parents/volunteers/staff through the canteen/food service. This represents a food safety and food allergen risk. All food should be prepared onsite (as permitted by the local council) and/or bought from commercial suppliers. For more information about the level of food preparation allowed in your food business contact the local council Environmental Health Officer.

Q. Does the WA Department of Education’s Student Health Care Policy & Procedures (that includes Healthy Food and Drinks) apply to public high school

Yes. The Healthy Food and Drink (HFD) policy is mandated in all public schools, this includes independent public schools. The Catholic Education Office has also mandated a policy based on the HFD policy.

Q: We do not currently have a school canteen. If we were to open one in the future what do we do first?

Operating a canteen at school is a great way to support healthy eating and creative a supportive environment. Before you get started consider the 12 steps in our Guide to starting a school food service fact sheet.

Q: We don’t want to make a lot of money from our canteen, but we need to cover all overheads. However, we lost money last year and have continued to do so during this term. The P & C has had to fundraise just to keep the canteen operating as a service. Are you able to help us determine the problem?

There is usually no single factor responsible for a canteen that has been profitable, losing money. It is far more likely to be a combination of factors. Click our “Why aren’t we making a profit?” fact sheet to determine some of the problems.

WASCA has a limited capacity to provide one-on-one consultancy to schools due to funding constraints, but where possible can offer this service.

Q: Do volunteers in the canteen need a Working with children check?

Maybe. If the volunteer is the primary care giver (parent/carer) of a child at the school they are not required to obtain a Working with children check. All other volunteers (e.g.  grandparents, community member, etc.), must hold a valid WWC. http://www.checkwwc.wa.gov.au/checkwwc

Q: What are the entitlements and rates of pay for canteen staff?

WACSSO recently sought and published legal advice and gathered information from the Fairwork Ombudsman regarding pay rates for Public schools. This advice stated:

“The activities of a school canteen are generally consistent with the definition of the fast food industry as defined in clause 3.1 of the Fast Food Award.

The Fast Food Industry Award 2010 (MA000003) is the most appropriate modern award for employees of a school canteen under a formal leasing agreement.”

Public school P&C Associations can contact WACSSO for advice – http://www.wacsso.wa.edu.au/

Due to the diversity of P&C’s and their school community, canteen staff may be paid under the State or Federal Award. You are encouraged to contact:

We also encourage you to look at the employment resources  on the WASCA website including interview questions, staff review template, job description template and canteen report to the parent body template.

Q: How do I avoid cross contamination and allergy risk in the canteen?

Avoidance of known allergens is crucial in the management of anaphylaxis. Schools need to work with parents/guardians and students to minimise a student’s exposure to known allergens.

School canteens can support the school in allergy and anaphylaxis management in a number of ways which include:

  • Liaising with school administration regarding appropriate risk minimisation strategies for the school canteen and supporting the school’s anaphylaxis management strategies
  • Food banning is not recommended, however some school communities may choose not to stock peanut and tree nut products (including nut spreads) as one of the school’s risk minimisation strategies
  • Ensuring canteen staff and volunteers are educated about food allergy and how to prevent cross contamination when preparing, storing, handling, displaying and serving food
  • With permission from parents/guardians, canteen staff (including volunteers) should be informed about students at risk of anaphylaxis, preventative strategies in place and the information in their ASCIA Action Plans
  • With permission from parents/guardians, school canteens may choose to display the students name, photo and the foods they are allergic to, in the canteen as a reminder to canteen staff and volunteers. Liaising with parents/guardians about safe food for the food allergic student.

Check out our Allergy Aware fact sheet and for more information visit www.allergyfacts.org.au

Q: Does the WA Department of Education’s Student Health Care Policy & Procedures (that includes Healthy Food and Drinks) take additives and preservatives into account when assessing the suitability of food and drinks?

No. The HFD policy is underpinned by the Star Choice Nutrient Criteria which are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines. While these guidelines do not take into account additives and preservatives the recommendation is that fresh is best and therefore reduces the overall consumption of additives and preservative. Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand are the government body that sets limits for all additives and preservatives in foods made in or imported to Australia. If you would like more information download our Food Additives fact sheet or visit FSANZ.

Q:How do I know if a commercial product is ok (approved)?

Check the Star Choice™ Buyers Guide to see if it is listed.

Q: Can the canteen sell coffee or coffee flavoured drinks?

Coffee drinks such as iced coffee and mocha are permitted for sale in high schools only. To be eligible for sale drinks must be less than 375ml and be made with reduced fat milk. To see if there are any registered/approved coffee flavoured milk drinks available in WA check the registered product list or your Buyers Guide. Coffee prepared in the canteen should be made with decaffeinated coffee. Please contact WASCA for further information.

Q: What drinks can be sold from the canteen?


  • Plain water or mineral water
  • Plain reduced fat milk of any size
  • Flavoured reduced fat milk less than 375mL


  • Flavoured reduced fat milk greater than 375mL
  • Fruit juice, greater than 99%, 250mL or less
Q: How often can I sell amber foods?

Amber savoury commercial items, such as hot dogs, hash browns, chicken nuggets, pies and sausage rolls should not be available more than twice per week unless they form part of a balanced meal e.g. served with three salad items and a small piece of fruit.

Other amber items, such as small fruit juice, small fruit muffins and ice creams can be sold every day however, they need to be restricted in some way e.g. recess only; after lunch only.

Q: Can the canteen sell red foods once per term?

No. Red foods are off the menu and are not permitted to be sold at all. Remember there is ample opportunity for children to eat these types of foods outside of school hours.

Q: Can the canteen sell jelly?

No. Jelly offers no nutritional value and cannot be sold in school canteens. Jelly, whether served with fruit, custard or on its own is classified as red.

Q: What is the pricing percentage I should add to items on the menu?

Firstly, there is no standard percentage you should add to menu items.

Secondly, you need to:

  • Calculate all overheads (e.g. wages, superannuation, tax, insurance etc.)
  • Know the cost of goods (e.g. what you pay for one bottle of water; what you pay for each ingredient in a recipe)
  • And then you can calculate the gross profit percentage using a formula. See the setting menu prices fact sheet for further information.
Q: What level of food preparation can I undertake in my canteen?

All food businesses must be registered with the local council. The school has a ‘duty of care’ to ensure food produced and consumed within the school is safe. By taking a whole school perspective to food safety, schools will be sure that they are providing due diligence. Please contact your local Environmental Health Officer who will be able to tell you what level of food preparation is permitted. See your local council website for contact details.

Q: What food safety training is required in school canteens?

Compliance with the WA Department of Education’s Student Health Care Policy & Procedures (that includes Healthy Food and Drinks) requires paid and volunteer staff to:

Complete FoodSafe Food Handler training (or is equivalent).
  • WASCA provides free access to FoodSafe® online training for WASCA member. FoodSafe packages can be purchased from Environmental Health Australia http://www.eh.org.au/resources/foodsafe.
  • Food Safety Australia have a number of courses online that are easily accessed, the equivalent training to FoodSafe is the Food Handlers Certificate Course which is $79 to complete online
  • Many local councils have subscribed to training called ‘I’m Alert’. Whilst it is not as comprehensive as FoodSafe, it may be considered a good first step for volunteers.  Anyone can access it for free through local council websites e.g. City of Fremantle http://www.imalert.com.au/foodsafety/training/welcome.php?sub=fremantle
Complete All about Allergens Training
  • Free online course, takes approx 60 minutes
  • Gain knowledge about food allergens, and develop best practice procedures to ensure safe food provision to students and staff with food allergy
School canteens must also appoint a Food Safety Supervisor
  • WASCA training includes two units of competency
    • SITXFSA005 – Use hygienic practices for food safety
    • SITXFSA006 – Participate in safe food handling practices.
  • Our course has been tailored to school canteens, all assessments are completed on the day
  • Networking with WASCA staff and other school canteens is factored into every session.
  • Enrol here
Q: We want to get rid of some of the unhealthy items that our canteen sells, but are meeting lots of resistance. How can we get started on this?”

If you are a Government school, you must comply with the Department of Education’s Healthy Food and Drink Policy which has been mandated for Government Schools since 2007. All food and drinks classified as RED should be removed from the menu. Schools should now be fully compliant with the policy. RED food and drinks should not be sold at all. As of 2009 Catholic Schools should also be compliant with the Catholic Education Office’s policy ‘Healthy Food and Drink Choices.

Rather than just tackling the menu and what is being sold from the canteen, we recommend that you start by developing a policy for the canteen, or by reviewing your policy if you already have one. If your school has a health committee, this could be a good project for the committee, but health coordinators, physical education teachers and school nurses are also often good allies for instigating change. By developing or reviewing policy, it allows everyone within the school community to put forward their ideas and the issue of what the canteen sells will be discussed in a far less emotive manner. Policy guidelines have been developed for the Government strategy.

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