Every school tuckshop plays a critical role in the health of students and their school communities. Children are considered among the most vulnerable age groups within our society. This is due to their susceptibility to food-borne illnesses (food poisoning). Did you know that Australia has 11,500 cases of food-borne illness each DAY?
While many schools have good intentions, the low regulatory environment means that food safety practices are often overlooked. Volunteers’ knowledge of food safety is also typically limited. However, stakeholders such as parents, students, teachers and authoritative bodies have increasing expectations around foodservice standards in schools.
From no hand washing facilities and no hot water to not being vermin-proof and everything in between. Facilities that aren’t prioritising the health and safety of students, staff and families are rapidly being called to action.
Securing funding is one of the biggest barriers for Tuckshop Convenors and schools. Funding is often stretched thin across the whole school, whether it be from the P&C, community or government grants, or other sources. Competing funding requests makes it hard to put forward your concerns without the right support to back-up your claims.
We’ve identified four key areas you need to seriously analyse when putting forward plans to update your school’s tuckshop.
Your school tuckshop should have separate sinks for hand washing, food prep and dishwashing. Cross-contamination is a serious risk when these areas are combined or located too close to each other.
Hot water should also be available to ensure proper hygiene and sanitisation is achieved throughout the kitchen. Cold water is ineffective at killing bacteria.
Watch our mini-series of short videos HERE if hygiene and food safety is on your school’s radar.
It’s critical that all appliances continually maintain safe temperatures, regardless of whether your school utilises domestic or commercial kitchen equipment. Food will sit at unsafe temperatures if the equipment is overloaded, not well-maintained or is losing efficiency due to age. This applies to equipment such as ovens, fridges, freezers, hot holding units and display cases.
Your tuckshop should be monitoring temperatures as part of their accredited Food Safety Program (FSP). Accurate and regular temperature data will help you determine the efficiency of your equipment.
For more detailed information on safe food temperatures and FSPs, download our free eBook for schools HERE.
All surfaces should be smooth and impervious, with no gaps, including between benchtops and equipment. Sealed surfaces ensure benchtops, walls and floors don’t harbour food particles and vermin. Both of these pose a health risk to your school kitchen.
Approximately 40% of Australian children will develop an allergy at some point in their childhood. This makes allergic reactions and anaphylaxis serious issues for many schools.
Kitchen layout is extra important for schools that take allergy management seriously. To prevent contamination of allergen-free food, there should separate areas for storage and preparation. There should also be designated utensils for the separate zones. In serious cases, separate appliances may also be necessary.
When kitchen space is limited, careful consideration will need to be given to maximising the existing footprint in order to keep costs down.
Until 31 May 2019, your school can apply for a GCBF grant. Not-for-profit groups are able to apply for a grant of $500 to $35,000 to help enhance their capacity to provide services for our Queensland communities. It's a great opportunity for your tuckshop to update its premises and/or equipment. This allows you to increase and strengthen the quality, healthy food options that you provide to students. It also gives you the opportunity to address other areas, such as food safety, eco-friendly/green initiatives and allergy management.
You can access details about the grant on the Queensland Government's website HERE.
Alternatively, you can use our resources to put together a proposal for your next school or P&C meeting.
Let us help you make a difference in your school community. Contact us to chat about your school kitchen.