Chandelle and Jess outside Currawong Kitchen

At the front of the line at his school canteen, a seven-year-old carefully selects a clover green ice block from a freezer of vibrant cubes – a sweet treat he’ll finish quickly. Only then does he learn it contained a whole serving size of nutrient-rich spinach.

He’ll go home after school and – for the first time – be willing to try spinach for dinner.  Chandelle, who oversees Jesuit Social Services’ food security programs in Western Sydney, explains that the homemade ice blocks are one of her strategies to introduce previously unfamiliar food to children experiencing poor nutrition. This is often a result of their families’ lack of access to fresh and affordable produce.

We’re different from a typical school canteen. We’re passionate about inspiring children to be curious about what they eat and encourage them to try a variety of healthy foods. We want them to develop their palates and trust their taste.


Supervisor at Currawong Kitchen

The Currawong Kitchen school canteen was established in 2020 to provide healthy school snacks, catering, and food hampers to families in the historically disadvantaged and under-serviced area of Mount Druitt. Two school canteens now sit alongside Jesuit Social Services’ affordable grocery stores, Ignite Food Store and Open Pantry, where the parents of school children can shop in a supportive, educational, low-cost setting.

“When it’s 6pm and you’re trying to feed kids on a budget, you make the best with what you’ve got,” says Chandelle. “You don’t want to waste money on something that’s unfamiliar or that your kids won’t like.  At Currawong Kitchen, when it’s the middle of the day and kids aren’t tired or cranky, they’re more likely to try new things. At Open Pantry, we work hand-in-hand with the parents to give them access to different foods that they’re willing to try.”

Both the canteens and grocery stores source stock from food rescue organisations including OzHarvest, and homemade snacks like the nutritious ice blocks give new life to donated produce before it wilts or expires.

“We have a composting system, grow our own veggies, implement strategies to avoid food waste, and recycle where possible,” says Chandelle. “Ecological justice underpins our approach, and Currawong Kitchen and Open Pantry are really good examples of what that actually looks like in a day-to-day setting.”

Our school canteen program was so successful that we were asked to run a second canteen; and now we’ve been asked to run a third. But the program runs on a shoestring budget and needs your support to reach more kids.