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School Health - Healthy Eating

A healthy school can help to encourage healthy eating by providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to make healthy choices and a supportive environment.

Healthy Eating programs that only target attitudes and knowledge are ineffective. The most promising healthy eating programs are comprehensive; they target the attitudes and knowledge of individuals as well creating supportive environments.

Both, a supportive social and physical environment are needed to help promote healthy eating choices among students. Providing students with consistent messages about healthy eating is important to help them develop the skills and knowledge to choose, eat and prepare healthy foods. Parents/caregivers and teachers/school staff, as well as students are all responsible for creating a supportive environment. When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.1

 
 

Students can:

  • Participate in school clubs and events related to healthy eating like Healthy Schools Committee
  • Organize or participate in school-wide awareness events or assemblies related to healthy eating.
  • Participate in food skills programs like Let’s Get Cookin’
  • Talk to your Public Health Nurse or other school staff as needed about healthy eating issues.
 

Elementary School Toolkit

Elementary School Toolkit: Promoting Vegetables, Fruit and Water

Use the Elementary School Toolkit and find strategies to increase water, vegetable and fruit consumption among school-aged children.

 

Teachers/school staff can:

Parents can:


Community can:


Policy can:

  • Make a healthier school nutrition environment, thus making the healthy choice the easy choice.
  • Make it easier for students to focus, think and learn if they are well nourished.
  • Support staff by providing clear guidelines related to food sold or served.

Healthy Eating Policy in Your School

Children and teens will eat about one third of their daily food intake at school.2 Students are better able to focus, think and learn if they are well-nourished.2 When healthy food and drinks are made available to students, then they are more likely to make healthy choices.3 School policies that address food and drinks served in school can help ensure healthy choices are available.

Ontario School Food and Beverage Policy

The Ministry of Education’s School Food and Beverage Policy (P/PM 150) became effective on September 1, 2011. The policy includes nutrition standards for all food and beverages that are sold in all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools. The policy applies to all food and beverages sold in all elementary and secondary schools.

It includes food sold:

  • in cafeterias and vending machines
  • in tuck shops/canteens
  • through all programs, like catered lunch programs
  • at all events, like bake sales and sporting events, on school property for school purposes

It does not include food:

  • offered in schools at no cost
  • brought from home or purchased off school property
  • purchased during field trips
  • sold for fundraising off school property
  • sold in staff rooms

There are also 10 (or less) School Wide Special Event Days allowed per year that school principals with input from school councils and students may choose. On these days, food and beverages sold in the school may be exempt from the policy. However, schools are still encouraged to sell food and beverages that meet the nutrition standards even on these special days!

The At-A-Glance Guide to Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy provides an overview of the policy for parents and older students.

Other School Nutrition Policies

A comprehensive school nutrition policy can help guide school staff and students in developing healthy eating initiatives and can help promote healthy eating choices. Additional school nutrition policies that go beyond the Ontario School Food and Beverage Policy (P/PM 150) can lead to a more comprehensive approach to healthy eating. For example, a comprehensive school nutrition policy may also include information about fundraising, food served at school meeting and events, classroom celebrations and classroom rewards. A school nutrition policy shows the school’s commitment to the health of its students.

Steps for Creating a School Healthy Eating Policy:

  1. Gain commitment and support from the school community.
  2. Use Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy and ensure that it has been implemented as intended in your school.
  3. Complete a needs assessment to identify the experiences and needs of students as well as the needs and wants of people in the school community.
  4. Review comprehensive school nutrition policies created by other school boards as well as ideas outlined in the Vegetable and Fruit Toolkits for elementary and secondary schools.
  5. Decide if your school nutrition policy will take a comprehensive approach or if it will deal with one aspect of school nutrition (i.e. classroom celebrations) at a time.
  6. Join BrightBites for free and get access to a detailed guide for creating a school nutrition policy.
  7. Write the school policy with input from members of the school community and school board.
  8. Create a communication plan for the school policy. This helps to ensure that everyone in the school community is aware of what is expected of them and what they can expect from others.
  9. Evaluate the school policy and ensure it is updated regularly.
 
Date of creation: January 21, 2013
Last modified on: March 1, 2022

References

1Joint Consortium for School Health. (2009). Addressing Substance Use in Canadian Schools: School-Family-Community Partnerships. Retrieved from
http://www.jcsh-cces.ca/upload/JCSH%20Substance%20Use%20Toolkit%20SchoolFamilyCommunity%20v1.pdf
2Saskatchewan Ministry of Education (2009). Nourishing Minds – Towards Comprehensive School Community Health: Nutrition Policy Development in Saskatchewan Schools. Retrieved from Retrieved from
http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/nourishing-minds/
3Bevans, K.B., Sanchez, B., Teneralli, R., Forrest, C.B. (2011). Children’s eating behavior: The importance of nutrition standards for foods in schools. The Journal of School Health, 81(7), 424-429.