Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Food Policy: Crunch&Sip, Australia
Location: Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland (three of the eight states and territories in Australia)
- Western Australia total population: 2.617 million
- New South Wales total population: 7.725 million
- Queensland total population: 4.844 million
- Australia total population: 24.127 million
Food Policy Category: Preventative healthcare
- To increase the amount of fruits and vegetables children are eating and the amount of water they are drinking.
- To increase the number of primary (elementary) schools implementing policies and practices that support healthy eating and the consumption of fruit, vegetables and water.
- To improve student attitudes towards the consumption of fruit, vegetables and water.
- To encourage parents to give their kids more fruits and vegetables.
- To ensure that disadvantaged students are able to access fruits and vegetables to participate in the program.
- In 2000, Healthway (Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation) funded a pilot program involving 12 classes from six primary schools in the Great Southern Region of Western Australia (300 students).
- In 2005, the Department of Health WA provided funding for the program as part of the Go for 2&5 campaign to expand to any primary school in Western Australia that wanted to participate. The Go for 2&5 campaign was a social marketing campaign designed to encourage Australians to eat more fruits and vegetables. Since July 2015 the program has been funded by Healthway.
How it works:
School participation in the Crunch&Sip program is voluntary. It is usually initiated by principals, teachers or parents. To officially participate in the program in Western Australia schools are required to: establish a school committee for Crunch&Sip or include Crunch&Sip within an existing committee; implement a written school policy; inform students, parents and staff about the program; identify strategies to provide fruits and vegetables to students who are unable to bring them from home; and have at least 80 percent of classrooms and 70 percent of students participate.
In New South Wales, schools are considered fully implementing Crunch&Sip when they have met the following criteria: school staff have been notified and have discussed strategies for implementing Crunch&Sip; parents have been informed about Crunch&Sip and their role in supporting the program; Crunch&Sip has been discussed with students and students have been involved in developing classroom rules that set out how the program will work; 70 percent of classes are participating at least 4 days a week; and Crunch&Sip is linked to other areas of school life and is part of school policy.
Teachers at Crunch&Sip schools set a designated time during the school day for students to eat a snack of fruits or vegetables, which in most cases, students bring from home. Only fresh vegetables and fruits, fruit canned in water or juice, and dried fruit are permitted. Children are not allowed to consume any other snacks during this time. Students are also required to have water bottles to drink from throughout the day. They are not permitted to drink any beverage other than water in the classroom.
The program is designed to be flexible, with each teacher deciding when the Crunch&Sip break will be depending on the needs of their students and school timetable. The break does not have to interrupt lessons, with students encouraged to eat their snack during story read alouds, silent reading time, or news sharing.
If students forget to bring fruits and vegetables to eat, teachers can send reminders home to parents. If a student’s family cannot afford or does not have access to fruits and vegetables, the school should have strategies in place to ensure these students can still participate in the program.
The following are some strategies that schools have used to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds: selling fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria at a lower price; allocating part of the school budget to purchase fruits and vegetables for Crunch&Sip®; asking local stores or farmers to sponsor the school’s Crunch&Sip program by providing free fruits and vegetables; accessing fruit and vegetables through a local food bank, or growing vegetables or fruit at the school.
In most schools parents are asked to provide water bottles for their children, however any clean, clear bottle (such as an empty juice container) is allowed. In Western Australia, schools from lower socio-economic areas can apply for a grant to purchase water bottles through the Crunch&Sip program.
Progress to date:
About 40 percent of elementary schools in Western Australia are Crunch&Sip certified; or almost 400 schools. Overall, teachers, students and parents have received the program positively.
In New South Wales 1717 elementary schools offer Crunch&Sip with 87 percent adopting the practice at least 4 days per week.
In Western Australia the program has recently shifted focus to more strongly promote vegetables for Crunch&Sip breaks. To support this change a suite of resources, including curriculum activities, were developed and tested as part of the ‘Operation: Vegetables’ pilot program. The Operation: Vegetables lesson plans encourage students to grow and cook vegetables, learn about the nutritional value of vegetables as well as understanding factors that influence their food choices. One Crunch&Sip certified school introduced Veggie Munch Monday, requiring students to bring in a vegie for their Crunch&Sip snack every Monday.
Why the Policy/Program is Important:
According to government research, more than 99 percent of elementary school children in Australia do eat enough vegetables, while 41-57 percent do not eat enough fruit. The Crunch&Sip® program has the potential to instill better eating habits in children and increase fruit, vegetable and water consumption.
High consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with lower obesity rates. Encouraging students to eat fruits and vegetables can also prevent chronic diseases later in life, such as heart disease, type II diabetes and certain cancers.
In addition to the long term benefits of the Crunch&Sip® program, there are short term benefits. Teachers have observed that eating a healthy snack improves children’s energy. Increasing students’ water consumption also reduces dehydration and the symptoms that accompany it, such as headache, irritability, and reduced ability to concentrate.
- A 2010 study of the Western Australian program found good participation rates for Crunch&Sip, with an average of 74 percent of students eating fruit and vegetables and 78 percent of students drinking water during set breaks in certified schools. The most commonly cited reasons for students not bringing fruit or vegetables to school were students forgetting, lack of parental support and financial issues.
- A 2011 study found that although nearly 100 percent of principals agreed their schools should be encouraging kids to eat healthy foods, only 44 percent were implementing fruit and vegetable breaks at the time. The most frequently cited obstacle was an “already crowded” curriculum.
- A 2012 study found that implementing the Crunch&Sip program significantly increased the prevalence of fruit and vegetable breaks, but that schools who received a multi-strategy intervention saw a bigger increase. A multi-strategy intervention included working with school leaders, training staff, providing incentives, offering follow-up support, and performance monitoring.
- One teacher who participated in the Operation: Vegetables pilot in her class saw a significant increase in students bringing vegetables for Crunch&Sip®, going from 33 percent to 77 percent.
Point of Contact
NSW program: Angela Hua, [email protected]
- The United States has the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which was started as a pilot in 2002 and fully implemented in 2008. The program provides funding to elementary schools to purchase fruits and vegetables for students to eat throughout the day.
- The funding is only available to schools that have a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.