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Students taught method for good mental health

5 September 2022

Healthy eating is on the menu for alternative schools in the Metro South region thanks to a nutrition project which aims to educate young people on making healthy choices to benefit their mental health.

The Healthy eating in alternative schools project is a free eight-week cooking skills program for students with a professional development (PD) element for educators. 

The project takes a collaborative approach to dietary education, with health professionals, students, and educators, working together to engage students in an influential setting.  

Project lead and Senior Community Nutritionist, Donni Johnston, said the project had progressed to implementation following a successful pilot with YMCA Redlands earlier this year.

“Early results from the pilot program indicated a huge success with significant improvements to student’s identification of health food and willingness to try new foods,” Donni said. 

“On completion of the five-week cooking program, 100 per cent of participating students were able to identify components of a healthy meal and 100 per cent of staff involved in the PD [at YMCA Kingston, a separate alternative school] understood the factors that influenced diet and understood the link between food and mood.”

Donni said she instigated the project in response to emerging evidence linking poor dietary intake with increased mental illness in young people, with students accessing alternative schools at a higher risk of poor diet, mental illness, and addictions.

Donni said the unique program was built on student and educator consultation and focused on three areas - curriculum, practice and teaching; school organisation, ethos and environment; and partnerships and services. 

“During consultation, we identified there was no cooking or nutrition programs currently offered at these schools and used this feedback to come up with a unique capacity building framework that upskilled schools to implement the project independently.”

Donni said her team planned to offer the program to all alternative schools within Metro South across the next year with the intention of helping adolescents form life-long positive dietary behaviours. 

For more information about the Healthy eating in alternative schools project please contact Donni Johnston, Snr Community Nutritionist,

Last updated 5 September 2022
Last reviewed 5 September 2022

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