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Supporting healthy eating at school

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 schools build a positive and healthy eating environment at school? 

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.

Food Program Ideas

Offer breakfast program with support from Breakfast Club Canada 

Offer after-school kid’s cooking programs 

Food Sales

Tips and recipes for meals and bake sales

Tips for vending machines and school stores

Fundraisers

Fundraising ideas for Schools

Sign up for Fresh to You Fundraiser

Special Events

Tips for Celebrations

Snack & Beverage ideas for Sporting events

Allergies

Resource guide for allergy aware schools

Additional Tips

Nurturing Healthy Eaters at School

Consider the following questions around building food literacy at your 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 and indigenous food and knowledge into our school?

Food Literacy at School: Tools and Examples

Key messages for educators for teaching food & nutrition

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.

Tips on being a healthy role model in the classroom include: 

  • Encouraging students to talk about and ask questions regarding healthy eating 

  • Dispelling assumptions based on stereotypes (e.g., thin students eat healthy, overweight students do not) 

  • Modelling 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

  • 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.  

Tips for discussing societal norms around our bodies include:

  • 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). 

Other tips for teaching food and nutrition:

  • 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.

  • 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.

Lessons Ideas

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. 

‎Exploring Food

‎Positive Body Image and Mental Health

‎Growing Food

Local and Sustainable Food Systems

‎Global Citizenship

Additional Resources

 

How to feed school-aged children and youth

  • 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

`For more information see handouts: 

Additional resources: 

Articles: 

What to feed school-aged children and youth

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.

For more information see: 

Clients looking for nutrition assessment and support from a registered dietitian can:

Contact public health dietitian for schools

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.  

Contact Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC

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.



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