The Tuckshop. Australian Schools at Dinnertime.

School Dinners.

When I think of school dinners, I think of getting into the queue at the canteen, clutching my tray, collecting my school dinner, normally meat, two veg and mashed potato, and picking up my pudding at the same time. This could be chocolate sponge with custard if I were lucky or rice pudding if I wasn’t.

But what are school dinners like in Australia?

As far as I am aware, schools here in Australia do not have canteens or school dinners as we know them in the UK. Most children take a packed lunch to school in a cool bag, along with a large chilled drink. The kids then eat this packed lunch in the classroom at lunchtime or they can take it outside to eat. Nobody gets to go home for lunch, it’s just not allowed. I’m talking about junior schools here, so aged up to 13, senior schools may be different.

But Australian schools also have tuckshop. Again, I’m not 100% sure if all Australian schools do, but they certainly do here in Queensland and I believe also in New South Wales and Victoria.

Yes, it is called tuckshop and isn’t to be confused with the English tuck shop you are probably familiar with. In my day, the tuck shop was opened in the afternoon and only sold sweets.

Here, the tuckshop sells more nutritious foods and in our local school it is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Apart from the paid tuckshop convener, it is run by volunteers, mostly mums but also some dads of children who attend the school.

Here’s how tuckshop works. A parent writes on a plain brown paper bag the food that they want for their child. There are two lunch breaks, the first is 11 am to 11.45 and the second 1.15-1.45pm, so they also need to say which break it is for and also which class their child is in. Like this…..

Tuckshop bagThe bag needs to be taken to the tuckshop, with the money for the order inside it, by 9:15 AM. Once all the orders are in, the volunteers get to work preparing the food.

As 11 AM approaches, apparently it can get quite frantic in there as the volunteers start placing the hot and cold foods into their respective bags. The bags are then placed into different boxes, one box per class.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, two volunteer children are sent to go and collect the box. When they return, the bags are handed out and lunch begins.

The menu is quite extensive and all food on it conforms to the “Smart Choices” guidelines which I believe were set out by the government. So…..

  • Sandwiches do not contain salt or butter unless requested
  • Chicken is roasted breast meat with the skin off
  • Reduced fat products are used where possible, including reduced fat ham and cheese
  • All food is cooked fresh for each break, no foods are heated from home

The menu is quite extensive; you can click on it to enlarge it…….

Tuckshop menu

I wouldn’t call it cheap, but I guess we could say these meals are fairly priced. I don’t know what a school dinner costs in the UK these days, but Google has suggested anything between around £1.60-£2.00. So I suppose the ‘meal deals’ at $3.50 aren’t so different from that.

But we certainly don’t get any free milk here. Does anybody anymore? Maggie…. Maggie!

Nothing to do with Australia…..

…….Apart from the fact that this news item appeared on Australian TV. I know it’s a tenuous link, but when you hear something that just simply makes your jaw drop, like mine did when I heard this, well, you just have to share don’t you?

The following text is word for word exactly what newsreader Kay McGrath said on 7news the other night here in Australia…..

7newsA three year old boy has survived falling 15 metres from an apartment block in southern Turkey. The toddler was hanging from a third floor balcony when he slipped and fell onto a pile of plastic pipes.

His mother, who was inside cleaning at the time, said her son always hangs from the balcony but she never thought he would fall.

He suffered a broken arm and leg.

“She never thought he would fall??????”


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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • jan November 2, 2015, 3:26 pm |

    back in the 50′ in England we paid two and 6pence for a very good hot dinner and pudding, the poor got it free, and they still have cooked dinners in England and some other countries, but Australia doesn’t. We should, as at least we know the children are getting at least one good meal a day. All so in England they still have FREE education which we should have here in Australia, Australia is backward in some areas.

    • BobinOz November 2, 2015, 11:30 pm |

      You were being ripped off, my first school dinners in the UK were one shilling or, as they would call it these days, 5p.

      As for cooked dinners in Aussie schools, this article is only about my daughter’s school, I don’t know for sure whether other schools around the country are still offering a hot meal at lunchtime.

      And Australia does have free childrens education for all Australian citizens and also for those here on Permanent Residency visas, so I’m not sure why you are saying Australia does not have free education.

  • Rachel October 1, 2015, 4:58 pm |

    I grew up in South Australia, at primary school in suburban Adelaide from 2001-2008, and the set-up was basically the same, except we called it “canteen”, and the two breaks were called “recess” and “lunch” (rural SA and NT calls the first one “smoko”). Also, we’d put our paper bags in the “lunch order box” when we arrived in the morning, and then after the roll, the week’s “lunch monitors” would take the box over to the canteen, and then collect it at lunchtime. About halfway through lunch, the canteen would also open for snacks, which meant you could line up to go to a little window and buy things like slushies, apple slinkies, and a few odds and ends like Gummi-bears and “yoghourt straps”, which were basically the only sort of lolly available for some reason. The canteen was never open at recess. “Lunch orders” were strictly for special occasions, and usually only one or two children would get one each day. Sometimes the canteen would have a special offer, like during Premiership, when doughnuts would be available with sprinkles in your choice of either Crows or Port Power colours.

    • BobinOz October 1, 2015, 9:07 pm |

      Happy days eh, especially with those yummy gummi-bears. I’m pretty sure they don’t call it smoko anymore, I’m hoping that was the teachers rather than the kids 🙂

  • BobinOz August 21, 2010, 4:20 pm |

    Yes, seems everywhere is slightly different. It’s possibly even different in England now to how I described it, after all, my last school dinner was 37 years ago!

    Thanks Melissa

  • Melissa August 20, 2010, 7:35 am |

    Fun post. I love learning about the differences between Australia and other places – for you it’s the UK, for me, the US. Just another example here – at my friend’s daughter’s high school in rural Victoria, they go to the Canteen at lunch and order food at the window at lunch time. The person in the window gives them their food, the child pays, and goes off to eat their lunch outside. This is a similar method to how school lunch is served in America.

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