Eating right at school

Bien manger à l’école

Can your child’s school have an impact on their eating habits? You bet! Your child spends a good part of his or her day at school. They should be able to put into practice what they are learning and experiencing at school about healthy eating.

Parents have a role to play too. They can support positive change already underway and encourage healthy changes by starting or joining a nutrition committee or suggesting non-food items for fundraisers. Together, parents and schools can create a healthy school environment where making a healthy choice is the easy choice.

What schools can do

Healthy children learn better. When children eat right, they can improve their memory and their ability to concentrate. In addition, eating well supports healthy growth and development. That’s why it’s so important that children are given the chance to make healthy food choices at school. Which of these healthy practices does your child’s school encourage?

  • Offer non-food items such as pencils, stickers or extra play-time instead of food with little nutritional value as rewards or prizes.
  • Ensure teachers are trained to teach nutrition.
  • Remind teachers they are important role models for good eating habits.
  • Offer healthy food choices for class parties, special events, special lunch days, vending machines and cafeterias.
  • Provide at least 20 minutes to eat and socialize at lunch.
  • Serve culturally appropriate, healthy food choices for nutrition programs.
  • Use non-food items for fundraisers instead of relying on bake sales or selling food with little nutritional value.
  • Schedule recess and student nutrition programs at times that will not interfere with a child’s appetite for lunch.

Your local public health unit can help.

Ask about:

  • Resources to teach nutrition in the classroom.
  • School presentations.
  • Referrals for student nutrition programs.
  • Eat Smart! school cafeteria program.
  • Parent resources on packing lunches or breakfast eating that can be sent home from school.

Find your local public health unit
Click on “Health units” then “Ontario’s health units”.

10 Ways parents can make a difference

Help to make healthy eating easier at your child’s school:

  1. Talk with your child about what they are learning at school about nutrition.
  2. Send healthy food choices to school for lunches, snacks and parties.
  3. Promote non-food fundraisers such as a dance-a-thon or silent auction.
  4. Bring your ideas and concerns forward to the parent council or principal.
  5. Find out if there is a school nutrition committee and join it. If not, start one.
  6. Find out if there is a food policy or help to create one.
  7. Support healthy school activities. Help with a nutrition program.
  8. Participate in healthy activities at home. Eat right and be active together.
  9. Encourage your school to apply for Ontario’s Healthy School Recognition Program.
  10. Review the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework to get other ideas about healthy eating activities that can be part of a comprehensive approach to healthy schools.

Find out more:

Call to Action: Creating a healthy school nutrition environment, by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health.
Ontario Elementary School Milk Program, by the Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ontario).
Packing Healthy School Lunches and Snacks FAQs, by Eat Right Ontario.

Last Update – September 22, 2015

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.