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The changing face of the school tuck shop

Due to a welcome shift towards healthy eating in our schools, parents of school-aged children will probably find that their memories of tuck shops are rather different to what their kids picture from the term.

Once a place to head to for sugary snacks and junk food, as an alternative or complementary item to a school meal, today’s tuck shops have nutrition very much at their forefront.

Tuck in the past

Tuck shops were once largely seen as a way for schools to garner extra income, and the prime way to achieve this was to give children exactly what they wanted to buy. In most cases, this would be chocolate, crisps, sweets, and sugary fizzy drinks. Sometimes, school tuck shops would also sell stationery items to cater to the forgetful or disorganised pupil who was about to turn up to a maths lesson without a calculator, or a design and technology class without a fine liner.

These were generally unrestricted; pupils would turn up with as much loose change in their pockets as they could find and were free to spend it all on unhealthy snacks. Rarely were any questions asked about whether the purchasing child planned to scoff all the sweets themselves or share them with friends, or whether or not they had enough money left to at least buy a nutritious lunch as well.

Tuck to the future

The shift towards more nutritious school dining is largely credited to TV chef Jamie Oliver, but a range of factors have come together to usher in a change to the way in which schools feed their pupils. Recent years have seen governmental initiatives drive the likes of sweets and fizzy pop out of tuck shops, to be replaced by fruit, rice cakes, and unsweetened juice.

In some parts of Australia, sweets and chocolate can still be bought from school tuck shops, but a colour-coded system is set up to ensure that kids only eat them now and again. The likes of lollipops and processed snacks are classed as ‘red’ foods, and can only be bought a couple of times per term.

While it’s easy for the mums and dads of today to become nostalgic about the tuck shops of yesteryear, it’s important to remember that childhood obesity rates are still worryingly high. It is to be hoped that a more restrictive attitude to the availability of junk food in schools can lead to the likes of chocolate bars and crisps being seen as more of an occasional treat than a daily staple of a child’s diet.

Posted by Jennifer
January 24, 2015

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