Veggies take root in school lunch menus

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Australian kids are set to get a healthy boost following the launch of a national initiative to get more veggies on school lunch menus and transform students’ attitudes toward getting their daily serves.

Delivered through Hort Innovation and led by the Healthy Kids Association, over the next three years primary school canteens across Australia will be engaged through a range of initiatives to boost consumption of veggies such as recipe portals, ready-to-serve meals and meal kits.

The program will draw on the networks and expertise provided by the Canteen Consortium which includes five leading canteen associations and networks across Australia that are able to reach primary schools nationwide.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said the aim is to spark a lifelong love of veggies in Aussie kids.

“Transforming how Aussie kids feel about eating their veggies will have knock-on benefits to their families and vegetable growers across the country,” Mr Fifield said.

“Only six per cent of kids aged 2 to 17 eat their daily recommended amount of veggies, which is why we are working with the vegetable industry to increase the amount and type of veggies that kids eat and ensure Australians reap the health benefits of the delicious and nutritious produce that we grow here at home.”

Healthy Kids Association senior project manager and Accredited Practising Dietitian Shadia Djakovic said the goal is to create long-term healthy eating habits around eating vegetables.

“Creating a healthy food environment in schools can positively impact children’s health,” Ms Djakovic said.

“This program will develop practical tools and educational resources to increase vegetable inclusion in primary school canteen menus and increase vegetable consumption by children.”

AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said the vegetable industry is pleased to invest in initiatives such as this through Hort Innovation to improve the health of Aussie kids and boost demand for healthy fresh vegetables.

“As growers, we know how beneficial eating vegetables is for your health and well-being. As an industry, we work tirelessly to ensure that the veggies that reach Aussie families are fresh and packed with nutrients,” Mr Coote said.

“We look forward to seeing this program getting kids excited about vegetables by giving them the place they deserve on the school canteen menu.”

Supporting this initiative is a range of other Hort Innovation investments that aim to boost consumption, including providing evidence-based tools and research to health professionals and online curriculum-aligned educational programs for kids.

For more information about Healthy Kids Association and their programs, visit their website here.

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