The Hon. IAN WEST: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Will the Minister update the House on efforts that are under way to promote healthy eating and combat childhood obesity in our schools?
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: Childhood obesity is a significant issue. The Government has placed a great deal of importance on tackling this issue by improving the healthiness of the foods and drinks available in schools across New South Wales. In the 10-year period from 1985 to 1995 the level of the combined overweight and obese categories in Australia more than doubled, while the level of obesity tripled in all age groups and for both sexes. These are concerning trends partly because of the health effects on children but also because of the effects that potential lifelong obesity will have on their life expectancy and quality of life.
In 2002 the Childhood Obesity Summit passed a resolution calling for stronger measures to ensure the sale of healthier foods in school canteens. The Prevention of Overweight and Obesity in Children and Young People: Government Action Plan 2003-07 was developed following the Summit. A key initiative within that plan is the New South Wales healthy school canteen strategy branded "Fresh Tastes @ School." Following the Summit, NSW Health and the Department of Education and Training established the School Canteen Advisory Committee. The target implementation date for this strategy for all government schools was term one in 2005. Schools in the non-government sector are also encouraged to adopt the strategy.
The strategy identified foods that can be sold on a regular basis and those that need to be limited in their availability. This is about a balanced approach; it is not about denying children access to foods that they particularly enjoy. We recognise that these sorts of foods should be eaten only on limited occasions. Included in the strategy is a canteen menu planner, a visual model designed as a colourful food spectrum. It consists of three main segments—green, amber and red. The green or "fill the menu" segment includes foods that should be encouraged and promoted, such as fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals and reduced fat dairy foods. The amber or "select carefully" segment includes foods that should not dominate the menu and avoids large serve sizes of most of the processed foods. The red or "occasionally" segment includes foods that should be limited in their sale because they are too high in saturated fat, salt or sugar.
In 2004 practical user-friendly resources were distributed to all schools in New South Wales. The first was the canteen menu planning guide that describes how to use the model, and the second which is entitled "Fresh Tastes Tool Kit" supports schools as they plan, promote, manage, implement and review their fresh tastes canteen. The New South Wales School Canteen Association, a key partner in the fresh tastes strategy, listed in excess of 900 products in its March 2005 canteen buyers' guide. This makes healthy choices easy choices for school canteens. Food expos are being held throughout the year with record attendance by canteen staff. The food industry has supported school canteens by providing healthier choices in vending machines and by providing equipment such as bench top and glass door refrigeration and heating appliances that make the promotion of healthier choices of foods and drinks easier for canteens.
A six-hour fresh tastes training course developed in conjunction with TAFE also provides an opportunity for canteen staff to gain practical skills and knowledge to implement the strategy successfully. There are many examples of school communities that have embraced the strategy and that are discovering positive outcomes. Canteens are reporting that more varieties of salad rolls and wraps, sushi and fresh fruit salad have been well received by students. At Kiama High School, for example, chilli chicken wraps, hamburgers with lean meat patties, hot potatoes filled with interesting toppings, caesar salads and pasta dishes are popular choices with students. Bellbrook Public School is now conducting a parent training program. All these initiatives encourage healthy eating in our schools.