Financial pressure on families is seeing school canteens overwhelmingly outsourced to private companies in lieu of being run by parents.
The Blacktown South Public School P&C recently decided to put the canteen out to tender after more than 50 years of being run by parents.
Principal Andrew Bowmer said he believes Shelley Public School is now the only primary school in the Blacktown region with a P&C canteen.
“We’re moving from that model to a lease model where we’ll get a canteen company in,” Mr Bowmer said.
“The main reason is around the changing demographic and the changing circumstances of our community. Twenty years ago there were lots of families with only one income, so lots of mums and a few dads were happy to volunteer at the canteen.
“We now have a lot of families who are double incomes, or at least one and a half incomes, a lot of people working shift work and things of that nature.
“Even though we’ve got a school of a thousand children, we have far fewer volunteers in our school. So that model is no longer sustainable.”
School canteen manager Rhonda Fogg, who is employed on a permanent part-time basis by the P&C, agreed the number of volunteers had dwindled despite a surge in enrolments.
Ms Fogg said she had just six regular volunteers, compared to around 30 when she took on the job 27 years ago.
“A couple of them are grandparents. They don’t have children here but they’ll come back and help because of me. So that’s a really lovely thing,” she said.
One volunteer, who wished to remain anonymous, had assisted in the canteen at least three days a week for the past 13 years.
Ms Fogg said she hoped whichever company took over the lease would keep her on as canteen manager.
“I love the kids, and I’ve made lots of friendships along the way. It’s been a nice school to work at,” she said.
“The kids and the staff have always been very, very nice. They’re nice people to work with and I just like doing what I do.
“When I first started it was only a little canteen. You were lucky to take 20 orders in a day. Now you’ll take hundreds, and our menu has expanded quite a bit. It has changed and that’s good because I like change.”