Published On: 3 June 2022Categories: Stories

Thousands of students are fuelling their minds and bodies as they linger over a nutritious lunch in an exciting school meals program jointly supported by School Food Matters and Loaves and Fishes Tasmania.

About 1500 Students, each week, from 15 primary, high schools, and District Schools statewide are involved in the school lunch project whereby pupils are served a healthy cooked meal from one to three days a week. That’s around 6500 meals a week.

Thirteen of the 15 schools make-up salads and heat a range of meal options provided by the Loaves and Fishes kitchen in Devonport, while two schools, Sorell and East Devonport, receive the raw ingredients to cook and serve dishes using the recipes used in the Loaves and Fishes kitchen.

Healthy, tasty lunch options

Lunch options range from salads and cottage pies, to spaghetti bolognese and lasagne, butter chicken and rice, fish fingers and chicken drumsticks.

The project is the passion of school food pioneer and Churchill Fellow, Julie Dunbabin, who saw the value of state-sponsored lunch programs during a tour of Europe, the US and Japan in 2019.

Tassie first for lunch trial

Tasmania is the first Australian state to trial a funded school lunch project.

“The trip consolidated my view that students need to be served fresh, locally sourced, nutritious meals rather than highly processed food,” Julie said.

“A third of a child’s daily food energy intake is at school.

“The lunch project is as much about the important social connections of eating together as it is about the food itself.”

Julie, the school lunch project manager at School Food Matters, said the Menzies Institute for Medical Research would measure a range of outcomes from attendance, concentration and enjoyment of the food to the impact on academic performance.

The two-year pilot project had been made possible through a State Government grant of $1.52 million.

Julie commended Loaves and Fishes for its support of the program through food procurement, menu development, training, cooking and the delivery of fresh produce and meals to the various schools.

“I don’t think we would have been able to proceed without the support of Loaves and Fishes who have been amazing in their support of what we are trying to achieve.”

Relief to resilience

Loaves and Fishes general manager Aaron Kropf said investing in food education and nutrition at the school level would create healthier adults and reduce the long term need for emergency food relief,” he said.

“We love this project because it’s actively moving the community from food relief to food resilience.

“This also creates a great opportunity for our trainees and kitchen staff to develop new skills, try new recipes and contribute to the wider vision of development.

“We are also proud to be working in partnership with Tasmanian producers to source local ingredients for the meals.”

Participating schools are Rokeby Primary School, Warrane Primary School, Gagebrook Primary School, New Norfolk High School, Triabunna District School, Sorrel School, East Devonport Primary School, Yolla District High School, Rosebery District High School, Austins Ferry Primary School, Herdsmans Cove Primary School, Oatlands District High School, Beaconsfield Primary School, Mountain Heights School, Smithton High School.

Smithton High School staff preparing meals. Below: plated meals ready to enjoy.

By Paul O’Rourke

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