Healthy Families Waitakere is influencing the thinking of staff and students across all 12 Secondary Schools in West Auckland. Through taking a partnership approach, Healthy Families Waitakere have supported students and staff to drive changes that are creating healthier environments.

Over the past 6 months, Kelston Girls High and Massey High School home to over 2200 students and 120 staff have achieved success in taking steps towards better food and beverage choices.

With support from senior management, students have been developing solutions to address the challenges with the food and drink availability in each High School. They have tackled high sugary drink consumption, poor condition of drinking fountains, and unhealthy drink options sold in canteens and vending machines.

Massey High School students found only 4 of their 12 water fountains in good working condition and reported that students perceived their fountains as uninviting and unhygienic. Their insights were presented to senior management and in October 2017, Healthy Families Waitakere secured funding on behalf of the school from The Trusts Community Foundation for 2 new water fountains. Senior management are seeking further funding from the Board of Trustees to purchase additional fountains and improve the remaining water fountains.

Students also researched the most popular drinks sold in their canteen and found bottled water among the least popular. The students shared their insights and learnings alongside healthy messages at the Annual Open Day. This sent a strong message about the harm of sugary drinks to the wider school community who came through the doors.

Kelston Girls High School were successful in negotiating a change with their vending machine provider Sanitarium, to increase the visibility of water in the machines. They have agreed to limit the number of drinks other than water to only one row. Prior to the change, most drinks available contained sugar, now all vending machines are full of healthier drinks for the students. 

In Term 4, 2017 the topic of water was integrated into the curriculum with over 200 Year 9 and 10 students exploring water during enquiry week. Students learnt about water sustainability, water systems and the benefits of drinking water.

Teacher Jamie Lane says health and wellbeing has become a focus for the school for 2018, "Senior management and staff are supporting student led pro-water initiatives that will hopefully grow year to year and allow the students to feel good about themselves long term", he says.

These changes driven by Massey High School and Kelston Girls High School are all part of a movement happening across Waitakere where community champions, organisations and sports clubs are choosing water as the best choice of drink. This is a further step to eliminating excess sugar consumption of our young people.

Image: Students from Massey High School at the Annual Open Day