St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Rotorua embarked on a journey towards better health for its students when it signed up for the Heart Foundation's health programme.

Now, after two years of positive changes and progress, the school has been awarded with a Heart Foundation's Heart Start Award.

Heart Foundation health promotion co-ordinator Jasmin Jackson said when she first started working with St Mary's, caramel slices and pies were available to buy every day through the school's external lunch order service.

"There was also a range of unhealthy sugary drinks available for students to purchase."


Today, the food available is a "far cry" from what it used to be. St Mary's was one of the first schools to respond to the call from the Ministries of Health and Education for schools to provide water and plain milk only.

St Mary's teacher and health lead Sheryl Todd said pupils were learning about the harm of sugary drinks.

"We encourage the students to share what they learn with their family. This will stop things like juice creeping back into school in lunch boxes."

St Mary's principal David Macmillan is pleased with his school's achievement.

"I am very proud that children have a greater awareness of the need to eat healthily. It is great to be in partnership with Pita Pit which gives children healthier options for bought lunches."

Ms Jackson said the award was solid recognition of the school's "amazing efforts" to create a healthy learning environment.

Find out more about the Heart Foundation's Heart Start Award at