The measures were introduced in Western Australia 10 years ago.
They require canteen menus to comprise a minimum of 60% ‘green’ healthy choices and a maximum of 40% ‘amber’ choices, with no ‘red’ unhealthy foods permitted to be sold, used for classroom rewards or supplied at school-run events.
Lead author of the report, Professor Simon Pettigrew from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the measure positively influenced the food and drinks provided to school children without affecting canteen profitability.
“This study found that 85%of respondents believed that the foods offered to school children were healthier after the introduction of the traffic light food policy for canteens, while 90% felt it offered a valuable opportunity to teach children about healthy eating,” Professor Pettigrew said.
Professor Pettigrew said it was important to assess the impact of healthy food policies given the reported link between such policies within schools and lower levels of student obesity.
“While school food policies have been introduced in many countries, relatively few have been independently and/or comprehensively assessed. This is one of the first studies to assess policy outcomes over a considerable period of time, and the results are very favourable,” Professor Pettigrew said.
“The results of this study are encouraging for policy makers in other states and countries considering introducing comprehensive school food policies to help address student obesity.”
However, the research found rural schools may need additional support because they had lower levels of compliance with the policy (72% in regional areas compared to 90% in metropolitan schools).
The study surveyed 307 stakeholders, including principals, teachers, canteen managers, and parents and citizen committee presidents in 2016, comparing the same survey’s results with 607 stakeholders in 2008.
The research, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health Nutrition, was funded by Western Australia Health Authority.
We recently reported that regulators in India want to enforce similar measures in the country, with traffic light labelling becoming mandatory for all food products sold in school vending machines and canteens.