Food Guidelines to Help Schools Improve Student Health
November 23, 2005
VICTORIA – The BC Liberal government has introduced guidelines for food and beverage sales in B.C. schools to help districts eliminate junk food and improve student health and achievement, Education Minister Shirley Bond announced today.
“Childhood obesity is a serious problem,” said Bond. “In B.C., one in four children between the ages of two and 17 is overweight or obese. The new provincial guidelines for food and beverage sales will help schools decide what products should be sold in their stores, cafeterias and vending machines, and provide students with healthier options.”
The voluntary guidelines will help schools:
- Divide food and beverages into four categories: choose most, choose sometimes, choose least and not recommended,
- Discontinue sales of “not recommended” items, and
- Move toward selling “choose most” and “choose sometimes” items.
Under the guidelines, a school that has 10 slots in a vending machine would fill five slots with items from the “choose most” group, four with “choose sometimes” food or beverages, and one with “choose least” products. Items from the “not recommended” group would not be offered.
The guidelines recommend that schools help students identify healthier choices by using check mark symbols on vending machine slots or menu boards – two check marks for “choose most” products and one check mark for “choose sometimes” items. Check marks would not be used for “choose least” or “not recommended” food or beverages, as these items would be considered less healthy choices.
“Children with healthy eating habits have the positive foundation they need to develop a healthy body and mind,” said Health Minister George Abbott. “Through ActNow BC, our goal is to lead the way in North America in healthy living and physical fitness. These new guidelines support that goal by helping children develop healthy habits at school they can carry throughout their lives.”
“These guidelines will help schools replace foods that contain a lot of sugar, salt and fat with more nutritious foods that promote children’s healthy growth and development,” said provincial nutritionist Lisa Forster-Coull. “There are many changes the schools can make right away by paying attention to food labels.”
The food guidelines were released in conjunction with a report on food sales and policies in B.C. public schools. The report included the following findings:
- At elementary schools, 33 per cent of beverage vending machine slots and 30 per cent of snack machine slots contain “more healthy” choices.
- At secondary schools, 26 per cent of beverage vending machine slots and 19 per cent of snack machine slots contain “more healthy” choices.
- Less than 18 per cent of schools have a policy or guideline in place that calls for competitive pricing of food and beverages to promote healthy choices.
- In schools with a designated team that focuses on nutrition, the potential for sales from both snack and beverage vending machines is lower and the proportion of healthier options in snack machines is higher.
“The report shows that many schools already have effective health and nutrition policies in place,” said Bond. “But we need to do more. That’s why we’ve introduced provincial food and beverage guidelines, and why we’re working on a new provincial framework to help school boards, health authorities and communities create healthy schools.”
In January, the ministers of health and education hosted the first-ever provincewide forum to promote health in B.C. schools. Educators, parents, students, health professionals and municipal leaders came together to discuss successful policies and practices, and to contribute ideas to a provincial framework for healthy schools. The framework will be released before the end of this year.
The guidelines and healthy schools framework are part of ActNow BC, a provincial health promotion program designed to support individuals in protecting and improving their health. ActNow BC goals for B.C.’s population include increasing daily consumption of fruits and vegetables and reducing the number of people classified as overweight or obese.