How Bondi Public School overhauled their school canteen

Canteen Bondi has eliminated all processed foods.
Canteen Bondi has eliminated all processed foods.  Photo: Supplied

Fees, location and academic record are all things parents take into consideration when choosing a school. Now, Carolyn Treweek, the manager of the Bondi Public School (BPS) canteen says parents are sending their children to BPS because of the food: nothing is processed and everything is made from scratch. 

"People actually come to the school because of the canteen," said Treweek who is also a nutritionist and the founder of Nutrikids.  

The school also boasts a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program.

Carolyn Treweek.
Carolyn Treweek. Photo: Supplied

BPS began the process of overhauling their canteen and eliminating all processed foods eight years ago and they haven't looked back. 

Treweek became involved with the canteen seven years ago, after she moved to sydney. Originally it was just a way to make friends, but it became so much more.

"I was doing a nutrition course at the same time and I thought it would be useful to bring some of that knowledge into the canteen," the mother of two said. 

Healthy chicken burger.
Healthy chicken burger. Photo: Supplied

Gradually, she took on more hours and is now in her fourth year of managing the canteen.

She says the canteen was already pretty good when she arrived, but it was serving a lot of frozen food.

"So we would make pasta into portions and freeze it, whereas now we do that all fresh on the day," said Treweek.

"We don't do any icy poles, flavoured milks or anything like that. And there are no frozen meat products."

Instead, they buy their own meat, make all the food from scratch and freeze "those rather buying products that are already frozen."

"We have 600 kids at the school so we try to stagger the days, some days it will be more making burgers. Then on the other days we might focus on some of the other products," Treweek said. 

The new canteen menu has been so successful, other schools have shown interest in doing the same. Which is where Treweek came up with the idea for the Nutrikids website, which is dedicated to promoting healthy food in school canteens.

"I've been out to several schools to talk to them about how they go about implementing the sorts of stuff we do," she said.

While we chat, Treweek takes the opportunity to dismiss claims that celebrity chef Pete Evans is having  responsible for the canteen's healthy overhaul, as claimed in some media reports.

"We spoke to him about that at the time," she said. "There was an article suggesting he had turned the canteen around and when we spoke to him about that, his response was that the media had twisted things he said."

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Photo: Supplied

How can parents do the same with their child's canteen?

For parents who want to see less processed and frozen foods in their child's canteen, Treweek suggests getting involved and volunteering at the school. "It's very easy to stand on the outside and criticise but once you actually get in and see there are people working really hard."

"I don't blame the people in canteens who are doing what they are doing because that is what they have done for many years. 

"Like anything, it would be much easier to put some stuff in the microwave than making it from scratch."

The nutritionist says it's a slow process, but it's important to get in there and start making slow suggestions.

"Participating, getting onto the P&C, going to the meetings, being part of the decision making and offering practical solutions."

But first you need to have staff, the principal and parents on board.

At BPS, Treweek said she was lucky to have the support of the staff and the principal, "that's the biggest hurdle."

"And then of course it's the parent groups. We have the very supportive parent group."

The hardest part is getting people to volunteer their time in the canteen.

Despite the challenges, the results make it worthwhile.

The food children eat throughout the day "determines how they behave in the classroom, how they can concentrate and focus; and also how that affects other kids in the classroom," said Treweek.

"If they are constantly misbehaving or jittery or can't concentrate, then other kids get distracted and can't learn as well."

For more information visit the Nutrikids website and Facebook page