Healthy eating at school

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.

Build a school food program: Tips, tools, and examples

Consider the following questions when building your school food program:

  • How can we create a supportive environment by improving access to healthy foods at school?
  • How can we provide students with hands-on food experiences, rather than a focus on nutrition information?
  • In what ways can we honour the social, traditional and cultural values of harvesting, preparing, and eating food?
  • What links can be made with activities in the classroom, garden, kitchen or community?
  • What opportunities exist to partner with local farmers, food distributors, or community members to bring local food and knowledge into our school?
  • Why is this program a good fit for our school?

School food programs: Tools and examples

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.


Support healthy food environments in schools

How can schools make the healthy choice the easy choice?

The HealthyFamilies BC Guidelines for food and beverage sales in BC (PDF) were developed to support schools with role modeling healthy eating in the classroom, in fundraisers, and at special events.



Food sales


Special events

Additional tips to consider:

  • 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.
  • Encourage healthy food choices from home, while recognizing that many families face barriers to providing healthy foods.
  • Maintain a division of responsibility in feeding, children decide how much and whether to eat from the foods adults have provided.
  • 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.

Teach about food and nutrition: Key messages and lesson plans

Key messages for educators:

  • 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.
  • Connect students with an Elder or a farmer to learn about growing, harvesting, and preparing local or traditional foods.
  • Consider curriculum links with school nutrition programs, or take a trip to a local farm, forest, or shore.
  • Consider that growing children have different nutritional needs (including requirements for calories, calcium and dietary fat), compared to adults.
  • 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.
  • Include weight and size discrimination when talking about bullying.
  • Role model talking about food in a neutral, non-judgmental manner.
  • Teach children how to spot nutrition fads and find good sources for nutrition advice.
  • 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.

Lesson plans and food activities:

These lesson plans and activities are based on the new BC curriculum.

Body image and media literacy

Exploring food

Resources from the BC Dairy Association's Innovation in Nutrition Education program lesson plans:

Other resources that explore foods:

Local, traditional and sustainable food systems

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.

Additional resources:

Supporting parents at home

Teacher workshops