Support for Schools

School Mealtimes Logo_

School Mealtimes aims to create safe and empowering school food environments that help school-aged children to become confident, adventurous eaters who have a positive relationship with food and their bodies.

Here are some starting resources for teachers about this approach. More coming soon x

Aims

Schools can create safe and empowering school food environments by:

1. Providing at least 2 opportunities of dedicated eating time for students to eat freely from their lunchbox

    • Protect this time - offer a time for children to sit with their peers, and keep this time separate to play time
    • Participate in the meal break by eating lunch/morning tea with the children, where possible
    • If your class participates in Crunch&Sip® or a similar program, do so in addition to lunch and recess, and not as a replacement for these eating opportunities.

 

2. Apply the principles of the Division of Responsibility to school mealtimes

    • Trust parents to supply appropriate foods for their children
    • Trust children to eat as much as they need to be full, in whatever order they choose
    • Refrain from restricting or encouraging particular foods

 

3. Avoid giving unsafe messages about food and nutrition to children

    • Never comment on the contents of a child’s lunchbox in their presence
    • Refrain from classifying foods as good and bad
    • Speak neutrally about food rather than positively or negatively
    • Align all health messages to the WHO definitions, limiting black-and-white discussions of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’

Words To Use

Here are some things you can say to children and parents about this approach.

EXAMPLE LANGUAGE

To Kids:

  • You are the boss of your body. Eat enough to make your tummy feel full.
  • If your grown-up has packed it then it’s safe for you to eat.
  • Different kids have different lunches. Your grown up is in charge of what you bring.

At mealtimes, it's great to talk about topics other than food and eating. Shared meals are a great opportunity to connect socially with one another.

Try not to make a big deal about food in front of children. This includes adding emotions to food ("I'm so proud of you for trying that"), adding pressure to mealtimes ("you need to finish that before you can play"), or emphasising some foods over others ("you got a biscuit you lucky girl", "oooh yummy cucumber, so good for you").

To parents:

  • Research shows that trying to control the amount of food children eat at mealtimes can actually cause unintended harm. At our school we follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding. We are supporting our students to have a lifelong healthy relationship with food.
  • With the right support, children are really good at regulating their own food intake. Our approach helps your child to listen to their body and eat enough to be full. They know how much they need and we are here to support them.
  • At our school we don’t force children to eat a particular food, or particular amounts of food. We will provide regular, distraction-free opportunities to eat during school hours. If you pack something then we trust that you are happy for your child to eat some or all of it, depending on how hungry they are that day.

Below is a resource that provides an overview and some tips about the Division of Responsibility, and this approach to School Mealtimes. You are welcome to download, print and distribute to parents and colleagues.

School Mealtimes Logo_

Starting points for supporting kids at mealtimes

Newsletter Inserts

Copy and paste the text below into a note for parents or an insert into your school newsletter. 

EXAMPLE CLASSROOM TEACHER NOTE TO PARENTS

Dear Parents,

In our classroom we follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding. This is an evidence-based approach to help your children to maintain a lifelong skill of listening to their hunger and fullness cues, and develop a positive relationship with all foods. In this approach, during school hours:

  • Parents and caregivers are responsible for what food is provided to eat at school
  • Teachers & schools are responsible for when and where food is eaten, plus the emotional environment around food
  • Children are responsible for whether they eat and how much they are going to eat

You can trust us to provide regular opportunities to eat during school hours that are free from distraction, and to set your child up to fulfil their responsibilities.

We will trust you to provide a lunchbox that includes food to meet your child’s needs. We encourage you to include a range of core foods including grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy and other protein foods (like meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts* and seeds). If you need help or ideas please contact us.

We will support your child to eat as much as they need to feel full, choosing freely from the foods you have provided. We assume that if you have provided a food then you are happy for your child to eat it, in the amount and order they choose. We will not monitor food consumption or dictate how much children need to eat. Research consistently shows that restrictive, pressured or forceful approaches to mealtimes do not help children to eat a variety of food in the long term.

If your child has medical needs that include help with eating, please come and speak to us individually. We will always support you and your child with this as required.

Working together, we can help our children become confident, adventurous eaters.

*adjust to reflect your school nut policy

EXAMPLE SCHOOL NEWSLETTER TEXT - SHORT

Our school is following the Division of Responsibility in feeding at school mealtimes. This is an evidence-based approach to help your children to maintain a lifelong skill of listening to their hunger and fullness cues, and develop a positive relationship with all foods. In this approach, we ask parents to provide a lunchbox containing a range of core foods including grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy and other protein foods (like meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts* and seeds). We will support your child to eat as much as they need to feel full, choosing freely from the foods you have provided.

*adjust to reflect your school nut policy

Newsletter Graphic (download your copy)

School Mealtimes Division of Responsibility

EXAMPLE SCHOOL NEWSLETTER TEXT - MEDIUM

Our school is following the Division of Responsibility in feeding at school mealtimes. This is an evidence-based approach to help your children to maintain a lifelong skill of listening to their hunger and fullness cues, and develop a positive relationship with all foods. In this approach, during school hours:

  • Parents and caregivers are responsible for what food is provided to eat at school
  • Teachers & schools are responsible for when and where food is eaten, plus the emotional environment around food
  • Children are responsible for whether and how much they are going to eat

Please provide a lunchbox containing a range of core foods including grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy and other protein foods (like meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts* and seeds). We will create a safe and empowering eating environment, and support your child to eat as much as they need to feel full, choosing freely from the foods you have provided. Teachers will not pressure children to eat, nor will they restrict or encourage particular foods. Learn more at www.mealtimes.com.au/schools

*adjust to reflect your school nut policy

School Policy Review

The information below will help you to add statements about the school mealtime environment to your existing policy/policies. If you don’t already have any school health and wellbeing policies, learn more about creating them here. More supporting resources are coming soon.

EXAMPLE LANGUAGE - policy aim
Add this language to your existing policy/policies

This policy aims to:

  • Create a safe and empowering school food environment that supports children to become confident, adventurous eaters who have a positive relationship with food and their bodies

Suggested rationale for this aim:
Research consistently shows that supportive food environments help children listen to their bodies and eat enough to grow as they are meant to. Restrictive or controlling approaches to mealtimes can backfire and result in less variety and fear around food. Pressure around eating decreases mealtime enjoyment and has been linked to disordered eating behaviours later in life. Our school is committed to helping students develop a healthy relationship with food and their body.

 

EXAMPLE LANGUAGE - policy statements
Add this language to your existing policy/policies

[insert school name] will nurture an environment where students receive consistent messages about health and well-being by:

  • Providing at least 2 opportunities of dedicated eating time for students to eat freely from their lunchbox. Staff will:
    • Protect this time by keeping eating separate to play time
    • Participate in the meal break by eating recess &/or lunch with the children, where possible
      [and, if your class participates in Crunch&Sip® or a similar program:]
    • Set a Crunch&Sip® time each day that is in addition to lunch and recess, and not as a replacement for these eating opportunities.
  • Applying the principles of the Division of Responsibility¹ to school mealtimes. Staff will:
    • Trust parents to supply appropriate foods for their children
    • Trust children to eat as much as they need to be full, in whatever order they choose
    • Refrain from restricting or encouraging particular foods
  • Avoiding unsafe messages about food and nutrition to children. Staff will:
    • Never comment on the contents of a child’s lunchbox in their presence
    • Refrain from classifying foods as good and bad
      Speak neutrally about food rather than positively or negatively
    • Align all health messages to the WHO definitions², limiting black-and-white discussions of ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’

¹ The Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding (DoR) helps parents, teachers and other caregivers to support children to have a healthy relationship with food and their body and to reduce stress at mealtimes. Learn more
² The World Health Organization (1946, 2020) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Learn more about these statements, including supporting evidence on the School Mealtimes website.

What Else?

We don’t have all the answers just yet. We know that this is going to take coordinated efforts from parents, schools and health professionals to help kids to eat well at school. We appreciate your expertise and we value your input. So we want to hear from you: What else do you need? What are you already doing? Share your success stories.

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