Portland Secondary College students are leading the way in inspiring healthier eating choices in the community.
The students have initiated a campaign aligned to the SEA Change initiative that highlights healthy eating options on the school canteen menu. The program was inspired by a Student Representative Council survey that highlighted students’ interest in understanding the healthy food options in the school canteen.
“Based on the results of the survey, they decided they wanted to do something about it,” teacher Liam Doyle said.
The students were aware of the SEA Change initiative and learned that Portland has a higher rate of overweight and obesity compared with Victoria, including school students.
They decided to create new menu boards featuring color-coded items according to the Traffic Light System of Food Labelling with ‘green’ food indicating the healthiest food options, along with ‘amber’ and ‘red’ options based on sugar, fat and salt content.
After liaising with canteen staff, Portland District Health dietitians and PDH Health Promotion team, the students also created four double-side menu boards covering snacks, drinks, rolls and sandwiches, and hot foods.
They have also developed posters to promote consumption of fruit and healthier drink options, including fun facts about fruit.
The next phase of the project is an awareness program which will include showing That Sugar Film to Year 7 classes.
“It’s only new but hopefully students will take note of the healthy options,” Mr Doyle said.
The school also hopes to expand on the installation of food stations that were introduced earlier this year, to give students more opportunities to bring nutritious food from home and use microwaves and sandwich toasters.
The new program is part of an overall campaign at Portland Secondary College to work in the community to improve health outcomes, which has included kindergarten visits to promote dental health and good eating choices.
Health promotion officer at Portland District Health and SeaChange Ambassador, Lindy Stuchbery, said the students’ initiative was very pleasing.
“It’s a huge step forward for our community; it shows our young people are starting to take the initiative,” she said.
“The students came up with the concept, found an evidence-based guide for the color coding, used their design skills, sought confirmation from PDH dietitians and were more than happy to reach out for assistance,” Ms Stuchbery said.
“With a population of over 700 students at Portland Secondary College, the SRC is making a huge contribution towards creating a healthier community. This is a great example of the community embracing the SEA Change initiative”