Food and beverage policies and standards at Ontario schools
Learn about the nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in schools.
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Research shows that children who eat a healthy diet are more prepared to learn and more likely to be successful in school. Our school food and beverage policy (Policy and Program Memorandum 150) includes nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in schools, including:
- in all venues on school property such as cafeterias, vending machines and tuck shops
- through all programs, including catered lunch programs
- at all events on school property, including bake sales and sport events
The nutrition standards do not apply to lunches or snacks that are brought from home.
The nutrition standards are based on the principles of healthy eating outlined in Canada’s Food Guide. The standards divide all food and beverages into three categories:
These products are the healthiest options and generally have higher levels of essential nutrients and lower amounts of fat, sugar and/or sodium. They must make up at least 80% of all food choices that are available for sale. For example, if a cafeteria offers 10 items for sale, at least eight must fall under the “sell most” category.
Compared to “sell most” products, these products may have slightly higher amounts of fat, sugar and/or sodium. They cannot make up more than 20% of all food choices that are available for sale.
These are products that generally contain few or no essential nutrients and/or contain high amounts of fat, sugar and/or sodium (for example, deep-fried and other fried foods, confectionery). Food and beverages in this category may not be sold in schools.
Using the standards
Adopting these standards can be simple and seamless for schools.
For example, a hamburger would be considered a “sell most” choice if it is prepared with extra-lean ground meat, whole grain bun, fresh lettuce and tomato. However, it would be considered “not permitted for sale” if it is prepared with regular ground meat, a white bun and processed cheese.
The nutrition standards do not apply to food and beverages that are:
- brought from home or purchased off school premises and are not for resale in schools
- offered in schools to students at no cost
- available for purchase during field trips off school premises
- sold in schools for non-school purposes, for example, food sold by an outside organization that is using the gymnasium after school hours for a non-school-related event
- sold for fundraising activities that occur off school premises
- sold in staff rooms
Schools are allowed up to 10 special-event days throughout the year, which are exempt from the nutritional standards.
School principals must consult with their school council to determine which events, if any, to exempt. We encourage principals to consult with students when making these decisions.
Although special-event days give greater flexibility with food and beverages, schools are encouraged to offer healthy options that meet the nutrition standards or non-food-related items.
Outside groups that use the school in the evening or on the weekend
Food sold by daycares or other organizations using school space for non-school purposes after school hours do not have to meet these requirements.
Role of parents
Parents have the main responsibility for shaping their children’s attitudes and behaviours about eating. Parents can encourage healthy behaviours at home by being role models and leading an active and healthy lifestyle.
Parents can also work with their school council to promote a healthy school community.
- School food and beverage policy guides
- School food and beverage policy: Policy/Program Memorandum 150