January 1, 2019
Learn how provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating in schools
Inside this healthy eating policy pack
- Background evidence: healthy eating and cancer
- Evidence-informed policy actions to increase healthy eating
- Key statistics: healthy eating in Canada
- Public and policymakers’ perceptions of healthy eating in Canada
- Economic evidence to support healthy eating policy
- Indicators to measure progress on healthy eating policy
School nutrition policies
School nutrition policies 1,2,3,4
- Mandatory standards for food available in schools and early childhood education and care services, including restrictions on unhealthy food 1,2
- Reduction of portion sizes of processed meals, dishes and snacks, and foods and drinks 3
- Bans specific to vending machines in schools 2
Degree of policy adoption*
Provinces and territories: MEDIUM
Current action(s) in Canada
There are many examples of policies covering the provision of healthy foods in schools, although these range in terms of their comprehensiveness and potential for impact on food environments.5,6
Mandatory policies exist in 6 provinces/territories (BC, ON, NB, NS, PE, YK). These provinces, as well as QC, ban the sale of junk food in schools (foods considered to be of low nutritional quality because of high fat content, calories, sugar, or salt). Two provinces (MB, SK) have mandatory district-level guidelines. Recommended guidelines exist in the other 3 provinces (AB, NL, QC). No policies exist in NU and NT, although development of guidelines is underway.
Other examples include:
- YK’s School Sale of Home Prepared Foods to the Public policy allows wild foods to be sold in schools.
- MB’s Community Schools Act mandates a healthy school environment including nutrition.
- MB and ON have policies prohibiting or limiting trans fats in foods in schools.6
Opportunities for action
Greater reach would come with mandated policies at the provincial/territorial level, and with policies that expand the comprehensiveness of the policies.1,7,8
A “serve least/serve sometimes/serve most” framework 9 is currently used to improve food choices in schools in 6 provinces (ON, NL, BC, PE, MB, SK). This framework represents an opportunity to improve legislation across all jurisdictions.
* Levels of adoption: LOW = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; MEDIUM = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; HIGH = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action.
1 Vanderlee L, Goorang S, Karbasy K, Schermel A, L’Abbe M. Creating healthier food environments in Canada: Current policies and priority actions – Summary report. Toronto; University of Toronto, 2017.
2 World Cancer Research Fund International. NOURISHING policy framework. Retrieved from: https://www.wcrf.org/int/policy/nourishing/our-policy-framework-promote-healthy-diets-reduce-obesity
3 World Cancer Research Fund International. (2009). Policy recommendations. Retrieved from: https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/cancer-prevention-recommendations
4 World Health Organization (2013). Global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases: https://www.who.int/nmh/events/ncd_action_plan/en/
5 Food Secure Canada. Policy atlas local sustainable food systems. Retrieved from: https://foodsecurecanada.org/sites/foodsecurecanada.org/files/policy_atlas_canadian_policy_interventions_supporting_healthy_eating_in_schools.pdf
6 Food Secure Canada.(2017). Summary table: Policy interventions supporting healthy eating in schools. Retrieved from: https://foodsecurecanada.org/sites/foodsecurecanada.org/files/summary_table_healthy_school_food_2017.pdf
7 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2018). Alberta’s Nutrition Report Card on Healthy Food Environments for Children and Youth. Retrieved from: http://abpolicycoalitionforprevention.ca/evidence/albertas-nutrition-report-card/
8 Institut national de santé publique du Québec. (2008). Les politiques alimentaires en milieu scolaire: Une synthèse de connaissances sur le processus d’implantation. Retrived from: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/841_PolitiqAlimMilieuxScolaire_Resume.pdf
9 Food Secure Canada. (2013). Provincial and territorial guidance document for the development of nutrient criteria for foods and beverages in schools. Retrieved from: https://foodsecurecanada.org/sites/foodsecurecanada.org/files/pt_guidance_documenteng_-feb_18_2014.pdf