Healthy eating supports children to learn well, eat well, and live well. Schools can positively influence children’s eating attitudes and behaviours and help lay the foundation for a healthy relationship with food.
Students do best when they have role models, and when foods offered both in and outside classrooms are in line with healthy eating messages.
How Can Schools Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice?
- Ensure that foods offered in school environments reflect healthy eating messages.
- Create safe and pleasant areas for students to gather and eat.
- Avoid using food as a reward. Consider these non-food reward ideas.
- Consider a "Play First Lunch" to help kids eat, play, and learn better.
- Take measures to address weight-based bullying and promote positive body image.
The Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC were developed to support schools with role modeling healthy eating in the classroom, in fundraisers, and at special events.
- Healthy school fundraisers: a win-win for schools and families!
- Fundraising Ideas for Schools
- Sign up for the "Fresh to You" Fruit and Vegetable Fundraiser
- Resource Guide for Allergy Aware Schools
- Peanut and Nut Aware Lunches and Snacks
- What Can You Do to Support Safe and Inclusive School Environments for Children with Food Allergies?
Additional Tips to Consider:
- Encourage healthy food choices from home, while recognizing that many families face barriers to providing healthy foods.
- Provide, don’t take away. “Policing” lunches brought from home can lead to children feeling shame and anxiety about the foods they eat or what their families have included in their lunch.
- Maintain a Division of Responsibility in Feeding: children decide how much and whether to eat from the foods adults have provided.
- Avoid the collection of student height, weight and/or BMI in schools. These parameters are influence by many factors, not just lifestyle, and their collection has been shown to cause harm. Instead, focus on helping all children build a healthy body image and a positive relationship with food, regardless of size.
Consider the following questions when building your school food program:
- Why is this program a good fit for our school?
- How can we provide students with hands-on food experiences, rather than a focus on nutrition information?
- What links can be made with activities in the classroom, garden, kitchen or community?
- How can we create a supportive environment by improving access to healthy foods at school?
- In what ways can we honour the social, traditional and cultural values of harvesting, preparing, and eating food?
- What opportunities exist to partner with local farmers, food distributors, or community members to bring local food and knowledge into our school?
School Food Programs: Tools and Examples
- Connect with local farmers through a Farm to School program to bring local, healthy foods into your school. See The BC Farm to School Guide.
- Try a salad bar program at your school. Salad bar kits are available for loan from Northern Health and include sneeze guard, inserts, food warmer, and serving utensils. For more information contact a Population Health Dietitian at PopHthNutrition@NorthernHealth.ca or (250) 649-7011.
- Connect students with Elders to learn about harvesting, preparing, and preserving traditional foods or consider creating your own traditional foods toolkit.
- Sign up for the BC School Fruit and Vegetable or + Milk Program to get local fruit, vegetables and milk delivered to your school.
- Start a school food garden. Or start small, and grow a potato tub garden.
- Run an after-school kid’s cooking program.
- Offer a breakfast program with support from Breakfast Club of Canada.
Do you have an idea for a food program or initiative at your school? See Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Granting for funding opportunities or to learn about other local initiatives.
Key Messages for Educators
- Education around food and nutrition should focus on experiences that allow students to explore a variety of foods and build their comfort with choosing, growing and preparing foods.
- Children do not need to know about nutrients (calories, fat, vitamins, etc.), food labelling, or classifying foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy”. This information is too abstract for young children, encourages black-and-white thinking, and does not help them feel positively about eating.
- Teach children to listen to internal cues of hunger, fullness, and satiety (e.g. what does your tummy say?), as opposed to external cues (e.g. portion size), when deciding how much to eat.
- Teach children how to spot nutrition fads and find good sources for nutrition advice.
- Role model talking about food in a neutral, non-judgemental manner.
- Consider that growing children have different nutritional needs (including requirements for calories, calcium and dietary fat), compared to adults.
- Include weight and size discrimination when talking about bullying.
- Consider curriculum links with school nutrition programs such as Farm to School BC, or take a trip to a local farm, forest, or shore.
- Connect students with an Elder or a farmer to learn about growing, harvesting, and preparing local or traditional foods.
Lesson Plans and Food Activities
These lesson plans and activities are based on the new BC curriculum.
Body Image and Media Literacy
- Healthy At Every Size: So, What’s Normal (gr. 8-10)
- Media Smarts (K-12)
- Being Me: Promoting Positive Body Image (K-9)
Local, Traditional and Sustainable Food Systems
- BC Agriculture in the Classroom (K-12)
- Salmonids in the Classroom (K-12)
- BC at the Table (gr. 8-12)
- Uu-a-thluk Feasting Toolkit (all ages)
- Consider inviting an Elder to teach students about harvesting and preparing traditional foods, or take a field trip to a local farm, forest or shore.
Hands-on Food Activities
- Yogurt Sundaes (all ages)
- Breakfast Basics (gr. 4-12)
- Cook it. Try it. Like it! (gr. 4-12)
- 3,2,1 Dressing (K-7)
- Mystery Food Activity (K-7)
- Sign up for a free teacher nutrition education workshop at your school or online with a registered dietitian from the BC Dairy Association. Check out this two-minute video to learn more.
Supporting Parents at Home