What role do you play?
We all have a role to play in promoting healthy eating at school. No one person has the sole responsibility for helping children to eat healthy. Read on to see what your role is and see how you can help establish healthy eating habits in children and youth.
Parents/Guardians are the first and the most important influence in shaping childrens’ eating habits from infancy onward. Parents/Guardians are encouraged to make healthy food choices available at home and send healthy foods for school snacks and lunches. It is important that parents/guardians eat healthy too, so children can see that healthy eating matters at home, and can be delicious and fun. Learning about how to eat well and having positive attitudes towards healthy eating is also important.
Students can learn about healthy eating and try their best to make healthy choices most of the time. They can act as positive role models with their peers by discussing why healthy eating is important for them personally and by taking healthy choices for their snacks and lunches. Students can also play a valuable role in educating their parents/guardians and other family members.
Teachers have more contact with children than anyone except parents, and their role in encouraging and supporting healthy eating is utmost important. Teachers can be positive role models by discussing why healthy eating is important for them personally and by taking healthy choices for their snacks and lunches. They can also involve children in learning activities which encourage healthy eating.
Once children go to school, establishing healthy eating habits in children requires a cooperative effort between the home and the school. Since students spend more time on school than in almost any other environment and may consume 40% of their daily food intake at school, the school setting can have a tremendous and positive impact on the foods children eat, student health and learning. School administrators are responsible for communicating to staff, parents and children that healthy eating matters and that following the school nutrition policy is important.
Food Service Providers
School food service providers should work with schools to provide nutritious meals and promote healthy eating messages. They can also create educational opportunities for students to learn about food preparation, distribution, food costing, etc.
Community organizations are important to the school community and they can assist schools with educating students about healthy eating. They can provide schools with information on healthy living and they conduct healthy living activities in the community. Community organizations also participate in various committees in the school community.
How can I create a school healthy eating environment?
- Promote and support healthy eating for students through both words and actions
- Ensure consistency between the theory students learn in the classroom and the nutrition messages provided throughout the school day (e.g., special food days)
- Offer culturally acceptable, affordable foods that reinforce healthy eating messages
- Develop and adopt food and nutrition policies that support healthy eating in schools
- Be a positive role model of healthy eating at school
- Encourage teacher/parent nutrition education and involvement
- Support the development and sustainability of school nutrition programs (such as breakfast or snack programs)
- Allow a sufficient time to eat at school
- Ensure a food and allergy safe environment
Food for Thought: Nutrition and Schools by Health Canada