Create-a-cafe at school

An innovative project is bringing entrepreneurial thinking to help school canteens create a café feel.

At Kingsford Smith School, change is in the air. Canteen manager Ruth Kirk and high school students have been working together to make the canteen more attractive and provide healthier choices. Kingsford Smith is one of eight schools  selected to take part in Create-a-Café, a program giving schools a range of supports and resources to transform their food and drink environment.

Delivered by ACT Health, in partnership with Council and YMCA Canberra, Create-a-Café takes a holistic approach to improving the canteen in participating high schools and includes:

  • access to the award-winning Entrepreneurs: It’s Your Move (IYM) curriculum to empower students to lead the change
  • seed funding for student-led school projects
  • support from a business mentor to work with students and canteens
  • a funky ‘café-style’ furniture fit-out made from recycled materials.

KSS furniture 1CROPRuth has been working with local business mentor Klarisa Cengic, owner of The Goods Wholefoods, to create a new, healthier chilli recipe which doubles as a topping for both burritos and nachos. The new recipe is cost effective and reduces Ruth’s prep time by having one dish that can cover off two menu items, both of which have been popular with the students. 

Ruth has also been collaborating with the school’s Create-a-Café team, a group of students leading the change through their engagement with the IYM curriculum. As part of their business studies class in 2018, these students followed the design-thinking process to develop creative solutions for a healthier canteen.  The students pitched their ideas at the Festival of Great Ideas, an inter-school ‘shark tank’ style pitch event held at the end of each semester, and received seed funding from ACT Health to launch their project, as well as personalised support from the IYM team. The students’ work continued into 2019 and helped them develop skills in innovation, systems mapping, problem solving, pitching and project management. The work has also been embedded into the school’s LINK program (Learning I Need to Know). 

The students have been working with Ruth to develop, trial and promote weekly “green” specials that appeal students, while taking into consideration the challenges that are a reality for all canteen managers – preparing food that is cost effective, quick, easy, healthy and tasty!

In Term 3 last year, students soft launched the new and improved KSS canteen, named by Ruth ‘Il Café Bambini’ (The Children’s Café), which includes a dining area featuring new recycled timber furniture and several blackboards that promote the canteen’s menu and specials.  The student team then worked towards a bigger school-wide launch and further promotion of healthier options in a fun and inspiring way.

Business mentor Klarisa has seen some valuable improvements in the food and drink environment at the school and recognises the challenges that canteen managers face daily.

“It’s really great to see the students’ efforts coming to fruition in the canteen space.  They are now truly understanding the business nature of the canteen, in addition to being a vehicle to provide fresh food options to students.  Ruth has been integral in making these changes happen.  Canteen support is critical and Kingsford Smith has really hit a balance between the two. I’m so excited to see the space thriving right now, even more excited for the all-green specials!” 

This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2020.