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Canteens: Looking for fresh ideas?

Check out what support is available for your canteen through Fresh Tastes.

All ACT school food services - from P&C-run canteens to local businesses - need to follow the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines (NHSCG). These Guidelines use a ‘traffic light’ system to categorise food and drinks. ‘Red’ food items are not permitted to be sold and must be limited at school events and fundraisers.

If your school food service needs to move to a healthier menu to meet the Guidelines and your school’s food and drink policy, you’ll find plenty of support available. Students across ACT schools are learning about how to make healthier food and drink choices. This is great news for school food services and canteens – it’s helping increase the demand for food and drinks that are good for our bodies. A canteen full of healthy food and drink choices really does help to reinforce learning in the classroom.

Canberra’s school canteens have been busy! All ACT public school canteens met the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines in 2020. A big congratulations to all schools in the ACT for their efforts in making healthier food and drinks a part of everyday life at school. Keep up the great work!

Choosing a school canteen model

The ACT Health Directorate and the YMCA commissioned the Sax Institute to examine the various school canteen models operating in ACT primary and high schools.

The case studies of sustainable school canteen models in the ACT: summary report.

The summary report contains a simple, practical reference guide to help your school choose a type of canteen that suits your environment and tips to optimise your school canteen.

Menu assessments

All school food service providers can have their menu assessed for a fee by qualified nutrition experts at the ACT Nutrition Support Service. They’ll offer advice on how to ‘green up’ your menu with healthy options classified by the ‘traffic light’ system. Contact the ACT Nutrition Support Service.

Canteen support and advice

The following organisations offer ongoing help to maintain a more health-conscious canteen:

ACT Nutrition Support Service: School food service providers can access advice and support for a fee from ACT Nutrition Support Service delivered by Nutrition Australia ACT. Advice includes menu ideas, recipes and recommendations for suitable products to meet the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines and ACT Public School Food and Drink Policy 2015. Subscribe to the ACT Nutrition Support Service email list to receive news and events relevant to ACT schools and canteens. For more information call 02 6162 2583 or email. There is also a new texting service - text 0468 734 436 with any canteen enquiry.

Healthy Kids AssociationAll ACT school canteens can become members of the Healthy Kids Association. Members can access recipe assessments, menu help, newsletters, business consultations, business support workshops, the Healthy Kids School Canteen Buyers’ Guide and ongoing phone and email support. Contact the Healthy Kids Association to check if your school is already a member or organise a membership for your canteen or school.


Canteen Business Essentials Manual has all the information you need for successfully establishing or operating a P&C run canteen with a healthy menu!

Go for Green is the perfect guide for navigating the traffic light system to meet your school food and drink policy and the National Healthy School Canteen Guidelines (NHSCG). Complete the 30-minute Go for Green online course with the accompanying guide.

Marketing Food at Schools use the 5 Ps will guide you through the essentials of marketing healthy food and drinks in your school.

Posters: print these posters to promote healthier choices in your canteen.

Stickers: use stickers to jazz-up your healthy options! Send these files to your printing company or print them yourself using our templates on Avery L7105 labels. 

Food handling and food safety in school canteens: This information sheet provides general food safety information for school canteen operators.

Food safety information for schools: This factsheet provides information about general requirements and the use of eggs and fresh produce in schools.

Canteen Connect ACT: Facebook group for canteen managers, support staff and volunteers to network with one another, ask questions, share ideas and provide support to continue providing healthy food and drink choices for children. To join, search for 'Canteen Connect ACT' on Facebook.

Getting Involved

So, how can you get involved to help your canteen or food service provider have healthy food and drink choices on the menu?

Canteen or food service staff:

  • Find out if your school is focusing on the Food For Sale action area and if so, join your school’s Fresh Tastes action group.
  • Participate in the free annual canteen menu assessment and work with the ACT Nutrition Support Service to implement their recommendations.
  • Use the resources above to promote the healthiest canteen menu items to students.
  • Consider establishing a reward system for students who buy GREEN menu items, such as a free meal when they purchase 10 GREEN items.
  • If you’re introducing new healthy menu items, let the students decide which items they would prefer by running a competition with taste testing and naming the new meals.
  • Partner with classes to create canteen specials and have the students create promotional materials.


  • Find out who your school’s Fresh Tastes Coordinator is and join your school’s Fresh Tastes action group.
  • Talk to your school’s canteen manager or food service provider to let them know if your class is learning about nutrition in the classroom – there might be an opportunity to reinforce learning.
  • Have a class competition to come up with a canteen menu special. The students can design posters to promote it to other students. Check out Fraser Primary’s video below to see how this can be done.
  • Take your class on a tour to the canteen and point out which foods are classified Green and Amber under the Traffic Light System.
  • Establish a hospitality club for students who can help out in the canteen occasionally.


  • Ask if you can help prepare healthy food in the canteen.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Traffic Light System so you can help your child pick healthier choices for their lunch order.
  • Complete the I’m Alert online food safety training if you’re planning on volunteering to cook and sell food at your child’s school.
Page last updated on: 13 Oct 2023