Children often turn their noses up at the first sign of a vegetable but Brooke Flanagan has found a way to encourage healthy eating – and it all starts in the school canteen.
The St Helens Park mother of two runs Brooke’s canteen at Sackville Street Public School, Campbelltown North Public School, Ashcroft Public School and Seven Hills North Public School.
Mrs Flanagan creates healthy meals for kids to enjoy.
She got the idea for the healthy canteen after her daughter started kindergarten.
“Going to her school made me look at what school canteens were selling because most schools just sell ice blocks, jelly and not a lot of healthy food,” she said.
“I love cooking and my mum passed away just before I had my daughter but we used to spend countless nights in the kitchen.
“That has made me love being in the kitchen and creating food.”
Mrs Flanagan started her canteens in January.
She cooks a range of things including chicken teriyaki salad boxes, zucchini noodles, Mediterranean pasta dishes, butter chicken and rice, spaghetti bolognese and more.
“We cook everything fresh and the warm dishes are very popular, especially in winter,” she said.
Approximately 27 per cent of children in Campbelltown are overweight or obese according to the Public Health Information Development Unit, which is predicted to rise with the city’s growing population.
Campbelltown MP Greg Warren said Brooke’s Canteen was “a terrific step in the right direction”.
“Campbelltown faces a growing population of overweight or obese children, which sadly leads to major health problems in the future,” he said.
“I commend Brooke, and those amongst the Campbelltown community like her, who are seeking to help reverse the rise in obesity in our kids and teaching them the importance of healthy eating.”
Mrs Flanagan said it wasn’t just about healthy food, but also healthy piortions.
“When I was younger, Mum would cook a lot of healthy food but we didn’t know a lot about portion control,” she said.
“I look back on that as an adult and I try to teach the kids about portion control too so it is easier for them as adults, because I suffer with weight issues myself.
“If they see other kids eating healthy food they will follow suit with that as well.”
The avid cook said it was especially important for school children to eat healthy foods while they were learning.
“It’s super important that they have that attention span in class,” she said.
“If kids are having red cordial for example and then going to class they might have issues concentrating or get distracted easily.
“The principal at Campbelltown North said she has noticed a huge difference in some of the kids when they are eating the healthy food.
“I have been really lucky with the schools because they are supportive of my rules, like no soft drinks for the kids and no flavoured drinks of a morning, so it’s nice to have that support.”