Maria Regina Catholic Primary School at Avalon plans to implement the ‘Crunch & Sip,’ initiative, as part of the Department of Education and Communities’ and NSW Health’s Live Life Well @ School Program.

‘Crunch & Sip’ involves primary school classes participating in a set break during the day, during which the children are encouraged by teachers to eat a serving of fruit or vegetables and drink water.

Jenna Bilton, health promotion officer at Northern Sydney Health Promotion and advocate of the ‘Crunch & Sip’ program, says: “We want the kids to meet their daily requirements of two fruits and five vegetables, as well as drinking more water.”

Ms Bilton says that children who regularly drink soft drink and other drinks high in sugar are not adequately hydrated and are more likely to put on excess weight.

The years five and six teacher bringing ‘Crunch & Sip’ to Maria Regina, Grant Colquhoun, believes a collaborative approach between the school community, teachers and parents will be important to achieve success.

“Our approach is split into three parts: culture, curriculum and community,” he says, “these three things working in collaboration will help it to be a success”.

Ms Bilton says ‘Crunch & Sip’ has been a successful program in schools across NSW. “We have definitely seen positive results from ‘Crunch & Sip’ during follow up visits to schools which have implemented the Live Life Well at School program.”

“The program has also been implemented by schools for children with special needs and teachers have reported that it has been positive for their students’ fruit and veg intake, as well as good behaviour and concentration during class.”

Kath McKenzie, who has three children at Maria Regina, anticipates the beneficial effects that ‘Crunch & Sip’ will have for her son, Asher Mclean, 9, who has hypoglycemia.

“His body needs regular snacking, so being able to munch on carrot sticks or pieces of fruit would be fantastic,” she says.

“It’s great the school can be more flexible for kids who need a little bit more attention and reinforce the messages about nutrition that are being talked about at home.”

While Maria Regina already participates in a range of nutritional education programs, Mr Colquhoun hopes that ‘Crunch & Sip,’ will further improve healthy eating habits in the school.

“Initially these programs started from the statistics of increasing childhood obesity rates, and now it’s about education and putting some money into it,” he says.

“We will receive significant funding from Northern Sydney Health Promotion to help implement ‘Crunch & Sip’ within the school. It’s about consolidating what we already do, while incorporating more variety in terms of fruit and vegetables.”

By Monique Penning