What’s in your lunch box?

There has been a food revolution for our children!

As most primary aged children head back to school for Term 2, we are asking the question, what's in your lunch box?

In the 1980’s if you opened a lunch box; you might find a packet of toobs or twisties, maybe with a space bar, and of course a sandwich, usually the vegemite variety. Buying lunch at the canteen, while rare, would be all about meat pies, chips, Sunnyboys and flavoured milk.  In the 1990s, the same lunch box might be packed with Le Snacks, Fruit Twirls, Finger Buns and Pizza Rounders. The canteen would even supply bounties of Coke!

The evolution of the school lunch has been one that embraces the need to provide healthy foods for the developing brain. Coupled with increasing awareness of how lifestyle is connected to preventative diseases later in life, and increasing societal concern about obesity, the school canteen has dramatically changed. Now you will find salad bars, freshly made wraps and sandwiches, endless fresh fruit and plenty of water.

Even if you look at the menu for a preschool or care centre you will see stir fry lunches with fried rice, fruit bowls, and fresh salad sandwiches. There has been a food revolution for our children!

There’s a brilliant program which started on the Central Coast of New South Wales that begins with what has become a classic children’s tale, The Magic Lunchbox. Written by a Central Coast local, Angela Barrett and illustrated by David Walsh, the story is about a very special lunch box given to Mango and Sprint by their grandmother. The children begin to learn about ‘sometimes food’ and watch as the magic lunch box grows drained and finally, grumpy. But with fruit, vegetables and water the lunch box grows big and strong with the ‘everyday healthy food’. 


‘The initial idea was raised in 2011’, said Dietitian Jane Whatnall, from the Central Coast Health Promotion Service, ‘and the book and supporting resources were developed, guided  by an advisory group made up of teachers, educators, parents and the Transition to School Officer from the NSW Department of Education and Communities.’ Launched in 2012, the book is ideally suited to children aged 4-6 and aims to start a conversation about a healthy lunch box. ‘We really saw how engaging the children can lead to engaging the parents,’ said Jane.


There has been overwhelming positive feedback from educators and teachers. ‘We all saw the strengths of engaging children through stories,’ said Jane, ‘but the teachers have been very innovative in their approach. The children love the story, leading to many important conversations about healthy eating and it has even led to food tasting experiences for children.’ Other Local Health Districts in NSW have picked up the book and introduced the program in many childcare centres and primary schools.  


Imagine you are starting school this year; what would you want in your lunch box?

Is this program something your childcare centre or school needs?

Head to the website; if you are in NSW, contact your Local Health District; there are high quality resources available on The Magic Lunchbox Lunch Box website:


What to learn more about the NSW Government’s Healthy School Canteen Policy?


Want to run Crunch and Sip at your school? Check out these resources: