School food environments

This page offers tips and resources on various topics for creating a supportive school food environment.

The food environment includes foods that are offered at school, as well students’ eating experiences. Students do best when they have positive role models, and when foods offered both in and outside classrooms are in line with healthy eating messages.

Tips and resources for schools and educators

Feeding and eating roles
  • Respect all foods students bring from home. Families may face barriers to accessing healthy foods, and the term “healthy” holds different meanings. To support families with meal and snack ideas, visit the Nutrition for children and youth page.
  • Trust that children naturally know how much food their bodies need. Follow the Division of reasonability in feeding: students decide how much, in what order, and whether to eat from the foods adults have provided.
  • Do not pressure students to eat certain amounts or types of foods. Pressure can backfire, and makes it harder for children to learn to accept new foods.

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Food allergy
  • Aim to create “allergy-safe” or “allergy-aware” environments using strategies that work best for your school. It is unrealistic to expect an “allergy-free” environment.
  • Ensure school policies include allergen avoidance strategies, communication plans, education and staff training, and emergency protocols.

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Food and beverage sales
  • Refer to the Province of BC’s Guidelines for food and beverage sales in BC schools (PDF), and accompanying resources below. These resources support schools with role modeling healthy eating in the classroom, school food programs, vending machines, and special events.

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Fundraisers
  • Consider non-food fundraiser options or food fundraisers that align with healthy eating messages.
  • Sign up for the “Fresh to You Fundraiser": students sell bundles of seasonal and local fruit and vegetables, and make a guaranteed 40 percent profit.

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Rewards and celebrations
  • Avoid using food as a reward. This sends the message that some foods are better than other foods, and can teach students to eat when they are not hungry.
  • Consider ways to celebrate without food that is inclusive of all students.

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Time and space to eat
  • Ensure students have enough time to eat. Focus on providing regular, sit-down meal and snack opportunities rather than what or how much a student eats.
  • Create safe and pleasant areas for students to gather and eat.
  • Consider a "Play First Lunch.” Some schools find this leads to calmer lunchtimes.

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