With routines and structures turned upside down, the one thing that continues to be essential is that we still need to eat! Below are home learning opportunities and additional resources designed to connect food with the BC curriculum and take the pressure off ourselves and kids to nurture healthy eating.
If you are inviting families to explore food as part of your home learning opportunities, consider sharing the articles relating to cooking and eating with children in the "For Parents and Caregivers section" below.
Connecting around Food during COVID-19: Nutrition Education Home and School Learning Opportunities (30 min presentation, 30 min discussion) *Note: there was a land acknowledgement shared, in recognition of the unceded lands we were sharing from, which was not captured in the webinar recording.
For updated general information about COVID-19, visit Vancouver Coastal Health, HealthLink BC, and BCCDC.
Providing children with positive food experiences has been shown to promote both physical and mental health. Schools play a key role in shaping 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 the classrooms are consistent with healthy eating messages. Learn more tips on how to support students in the following areas:
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 and indigenous food and knowledge into our school?
Teaching about food and nutrition is another aspect of food literacy. It is helpful to consider in advance strategies for addressing topics that may arise when teaching healthy eating that need to be handled with sensitivity.
The following are some key messages and tips:
Modeling healthy eating behaviours (e.g. bring in lunches/snacks prepared at home that reflect comfort with a variety of foods).
Speaking positively about food and eating habits without expressing personal food preferences.
Dispelling assumptions based on stereotypes (e.g., thin students eat healthy, overweight students do not).
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.
Find out what to do if you suspect a student is
struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder.
Emphasize that students can be healthy at a variety of body sizes and shapes (e.g., display images and use resources that show individuals with different body types). Students who feel positive about their bodies find it easier to make decisions that promote good health.
Avoid making assumptions that an underweight or overweight student is not eating healthy food and requires an intervention or that an average weight child is necessarily eating healthy food.
Focus on health rather than weight, acknowledging that natural body development includes increases in weight and body fat.
Watch for, discuss and address issues related to weight-based teasing/bullying or weight bias.
Focus on teaching decision-making skills that can optimize healthy behaviours (e.g., media literacy, challenging peer norms about weight and shape, stress management).
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 through your school district’s Indigenous Education team or with a farmer to learn about growing, harvesting, and preparing local or traditional foods.
Recognize inequities in our society and
explore poverty reduction strategies with students.
Consider all the above strategies to encourage children to feel positive about eating and develop skills to enjoy a variety of foods. Refrain from classifying foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy”, learning about food labelling, and nutrients (calories, fat, vitamins, etc.) as it can produce the opposite effect and encourage black-and-white thinking.
Through experiential learning around food, students will be able to make meaningful connections between cooking, growing and enjoy eating a variety of food together to support life-long healthy eating habits. The following lessonplans align with the 2019 Canada's Food guide.
Visit the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition website for more resources.
Adults decide what foods to offer, and when and where to serve meals and snacks.
Kids decide how much to eat, and which foods to choose from what is provided.
Involve kids in growing, selecting and preparing foods so that they can build their food skills.
Offer children and youth a variety of foods. As they see foods over and over again, they will build their comfort with a wider range of foods. Involving them in some of the meal planning, shopping, and cooking can also increase their ability to eat well and make mealtimes more pleasant in the long run.
Clients looking for nutrition assessment and support from a registered dietitian can:
Public health dietitians work with public health staff, schools, and community partners to promote healthy eating environments in the school setting. Contact your local VCH community health centre to connect with a public health dietitian.
Clients looking for nutrition assessment and support from a registered dietitian can call Dietitian Services at a HealthLink BC by dialing 8-1-1.
Content adapted from the Northern Health Population Health Nutrition pages.