Fresh fruit and smash burgers: Sydney cafes help home-schooling parents with lunch orders

Janna DeVylder and her children Gus, Eli, Alannah and Evelyn having a picnic lunch from Happyfield, Haberfield, in their ...
Janna DeVylder and her children Gus, Eli, Alannah and Evelyn having a picnic lunch from Happyfield, Haberfield, in their front yard. Photo: Louise Kennerley

"Typically it is a fend-for-yourself because everyone is on different schedules, but once or twice a week, when we are tired of the refrigerator, we order lunch from Happyfield," says Janna DeVylder.

DeVylder and her husband Steve Baty are co-founders and directors of design firm Meld Studios, which they are co-ordinating from home while also home-schooling four children aged between 11 and 17.

The couple are two of many parents who are ordering specials from local cafes and restaurants to make juggling schedules and school lunches easier.

"It's something different for the kids who are in this monotonous, groundhog day," says DeVylder. "It's about trying to find little moments of brightness that makes [each day] feel different, and gives us a chance to sit down together."

Happyfield in Haberfield, famous for its hulking "smash burgers" and pancakes, is one of many cafes to adapt its menu in order to help working-from-home parents pull together a lunch.

"A big part of our clientele has become people working from home, people we might have only seen once a fortnight, but now we are sometimes seeing them twice a day", says Happyfield co-owner Chris Theodosi.

Habibi bowl, smash burger, muffin and a pancake stack with drinks from Happyfield.
Habibi bowl, smash burger, muffin and a pancake stack with drinks from Happyfield.  Photo: Louise Kennerley

"We are building a better relationship with our community. We are doing lots of sandwich or pasta specials which have become very popular, and locals will come and pick them up at lunchtime for their kids. It's something the kids have been looking forward to all day".

Owner of Wise Monkey Cafe in Berowra Waters, Amy Grenfell, knows the challenges of juggling work with home-schooling as much as anyone. "I start fairly early at the cafe, and my daughter Imogen is home-schooled while I work," she says.

Wise Monkey's home-school lunch boxes are designed for all kinds of family situations and have been a hit in the Hornsby Shire since launching in mid-July.


Options include a "Backyard Brunch Hamper" for $45 with granola cups, fruit sourdough, homemade scones, fresh fruit and coffee, and a $15 tuckshop pack filled with fruit, sandwich triangles, cabanossi, cheese, crackers, cherry tomatoes and a juice popper.

"The biggest reason we started doing the hampers is because kids thrive off routine, and they're missing out on that," says Grenfell. "We wanted to provide something to the community that would meet their needs and importantly be affordable."

A similar line of thinking encouraged Mirko Morello, owner of Abbotsford cafe The Cove Dining, to start $10 weekday specials for families.

Happyfield's pancake takeaway during lockdown.
Happyfield's pancake takeaway during lockdown. Photo: Supplied

"Everyone is working and schooling from home, so the purpose was to attract those people," says Morello.

The Cove Dining sells hundreds of meals each week, with daily specials such as Burger Tuesday and Salad Thursday.

"We thought lockdown would only be a week or two, so we didn't put too much into it at first. But then it was obvious [lockdown] would keep going, so the meal specials became a way to attract customers."

Ordering lunch for home-schooled kids is a great way to break up the day, but Jane Freeman – accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians Australia – says that it is important "treat meals" are balanced with a healthy, nutritional diet.

"We certainly know the goodness of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains – they help kids function better and [assist] with concentration, focus and mental aptitude."

"With your cheat meals, of course it's really nice to support your local cafes, and a lot of them are doing nice healthy meals".

In regards to snacking, Freeman says that kids ideally shouldn't be eating when they're bored. Rather than using too many treat foods for rewards, using quick-bake packet mixes combined with fresh ingredients is a good idea, too.

"Snacks give kids a break away from screens, so even if you just buy a packet mix and tweak it with fresh ingredients like bananas or pears, it's a healthier option and the kids can get involved."

Five more home-school friendly lunch orders

Yum Yum Bakery 

Serving up to five people for $75, Yum Yum's Lebanese breakfast box could easily travel through to lunch with its 24 mini flatbreads, manoush, shanklish, za'atar, labni, ful and fresh vegetables.

273 Guildford Road, Guildford

The Grounds 

Plenty of healthy and diverse meals between $30 and $50 can be ordered from The Grounds website. Options include shellfish risotto with salad, shepherd's pie, and a do-it-yourself beef tortilla pack. Nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free options available.

7a/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria

Pasta Emilia 

$18-$45 ready-made lunch meals to serve two adults or three kids are available every week from a rotating menu. This week's specials include eggplant parmigiana and green agnolotti with roasted pumpkin and herb butter.

259 Riley Street, Surry Hills

Nooks Place

$65 bagel boxes are the big order here. Boxes come with four bagels filled with the likes of salmon lox, chicken schnitzel, beef brisket and grilled halloumi with chips and drinks included. For hungry families.

105 King Street, Randwick

I Love Pho 

Wholesome, authentic Vietnamese meals to get you through the last days of winter. Vermicelli bowls start at $18.90 while a standard chicken or beef pho will set you back $16.90 for pick-up.

47 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest