November 28th, 2022social enterprise shifts the menu to nutrition-rich eats
FORGET the days when school lunch meant a pallid pastry followed by
a fizzy saccharine chaser and a stomach ache.
A home-grown social enterprise has been quietly cooking up some piping
hot success in ensuring kids at multiple schools across Hepburn Shire go healthy
when it comes to tucker time.
Lyonville-based, former senior state public health advisor, Shelley Bowen is CEO
of Health Futures Australia, a non-profit health promotion organisation that started
the SHIFT Healthy Lunch Kitchen back in March last year.
“My real interest is children’s health and wellbeing. Nine out of 10 children aren’t
getting enough fruit and vegetables,” Shelley, who has a doctorate in public health,
SHIFT stands for Sustainable Healthy Integrated Food Towns, and the main aim
is to provide nutrition-rich food with low food miles and minimal waste, at prices in
reach of everyone.
“We use as much locally grown produce as possible and we’ve got six local
suppliers which is fantastic,” Shelley said.
The school lunches have so far been taken up by Daylesford, St Michaels,
Hepburn, Daylesford Dharma, Yandoit and Trentham primary schools, offering
menu options ranging in price from $3.50 to $7.50.
Some of the lunch options currently on offer include rainbow veggie sushi ($7)
or chicken & veggie sushi ($7.50), three organic strawberry mini-muffins ($3.50),
organic strawberry puree and natural yoghurt cup ($3.50) or nourishing nachos
“We’re 100 per cent tax deductible and we subsidise each meal which is
something we’re able to do because we have donors or donations which can fill that
And using the former canteen space at Daylesford Primary as their kitchen base,
they’ve been able to also introduce vegetable-packed take-home options once a week –
in a response to local demand.
Take-home meals, currently available on Thursdays, range from greens and ricotta
cannelloni with Napoli sauce, serves 4-6 ($35) or Italian meatballs with napoli and
lemony herby risoni, serves 4-6 ($40) to roasted local organic vegetable with pearl
couscous and tahini, serves 4 ($25) or crunchy crispy local colourful slaw, 500g ($9).
Shifting the aim to nutrition-rich food
But they’re now in need of a bigger kitchen premises and Shelley is keen to hear
from anyone in the Hepburn Shire who can help out with providing access to bigger
premises from which the model can function and expand into the future.
“Our biggest challenge is lack of a sizeable space. Next year we really need a larger
space that we can adapt or that we can affordably rent in the shire. We’re producing
hundreds of meals a week on two plug-in hotplates.”
The SHIFT Healthy Lunch Kitchen is currently able to operate using a pool of
about 12 enthusiastic volunteers, but also employs two part-time cooks and has just
been able to put on a new part-time apprentice, who is completing studies through
Shepparton’s GOTAFE, as well.
“We have an incredible network of volunteers. We don’t know what we’d do
without our volunteers.”
The hope is to employ more workers down the track and expand further in what
has become another local sustainability first that looks likely to turn heads much
“We’re trying to build the enterprise.”
Shelley says the bigger vision is of a larger Healthy Lunch Kitchen operating out
of a purpose-built facility which includes vegetable production and aquaponics, and is
powered by conversion of organic food matter into biogas.
And towards progressing that vision, the organisation recently secured a $30,000
Regional Development Victoria state government grant to produce a business case
“We secured that grant about five months ago and the reports are now being
finalised. We’ve got a powerful test case. We’re using commercial principles for social
and health good. That’s the ethos.”
Words: Eve Lamb | Image: Kyle Barnes