Go on, treat yourself - to the Gutsy Challenge.

The Gutsy Challenge


My daughter’s school band recently performed well at a concert and as a treat, the band was thrown a little party today. A few of us mums got together and baked (in my case bought) the treats: cupcakes, lamingtons and Anzac biscuits. Interestingly none of us suggested we bring a fruit platter, although I’m sure if we presented the children with nothing but fruit, they would have swarmed down like a plague of locusts and polished off the fruit as quickly as they did the cupcakes.

The concept of “treating” is an interesting one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it. I have a Costco-sized box of Oreos in the garage which I bring out as a treat for our four children (or as a behavioural control mechanism when necessary).

But after reading about the Gutsy Challenge run by the Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Institute, I’ve been asking myself how hard would it be to replace the questionable biscuit dipper and even more questionable “cheese” dip, with carrot sticks in the school lunch box instead. I’ve been asking myself why I don’t treat my children to a healthier life, instead of an Oreo.

Gastro-intestinal cancers (cancer of the oesophagus, stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas and bowel) are the most common form of cancer. GI cancer affects 20,000 Australians each year and kills 26 of us every day. Everything you put in your mouth affects your Gastro Intestinal System and diet as well as other lifestyle factors increases the risk of these cancers.

In Australia , 1.8 million primary school aged children are either overweight or obese. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m not trying to scare me. I’m just trying to remind myself that I have an opportunity to teach my children some healthy eating habits from a young age that might improve the quality of their lives and reduce the risk of cancer later on.


The GI Cancer Institute saves lives by funding clinical trials research in Australia . The institute runs an annual fundraiser, The Gutsy Challenge, which encourages primary and high school students to seek sponsorship to eat two fruit and four vegetables every day for one week. The Gutsy Challenge is the largest national healthy eating programme for children in Australia and its focus is to encourage kids to establish healthy eating habits, the earlier the better. All monies raised help fund GI cancer research.

I don’t know about your children, but mine are thrilled to be paid to eat fruit and vegetables for a week, not because they love their fruit and veg (which they mostly do) but because they want a guinea pig and they will do just about anything for money.  They haven’t quite realised how charitable sponsorship works.

The fundraiser runs from March – November each year and children who fundraise can win great prizes including iPod nano’s, movie tickets, digital key rings, Nintendo DS’s and more. I’m not sure what a digital key ring is but it sounds like something my children would like.

How can you get involved?

Sign up your family to do The Gutsy Challenge. You can sign up and do your sponsorship online here. 

Ask your school or sports club to run the challenge too or promote it as part of their own healthy eating programme. You can run school-wide activities in collaboration with the challenge, such as a uniform-free day or running competitions.

The GI Cancer Institute recently had a team running in the Sun Herald City to Surf. If you would like to nominate the GI Cancer Institute as your charity of choice, choose from the many fun runs Australia wide.

Shankari Chandran is a recent returner after ten years in London. Formerly a social justice lawyer, Shankari chronicles the day-to-day of her family’s return on her blog.