Research confirms what teachers have known for a long time - health, nutrition, and learning are linked. Healthy, nourished students who feel safe are better able to learn, perform in class, and attend school more regularly. Those who achieve higher levels of education tend to experience better health as adults.
For these and many other reasons, food and beverages served and sold in schools should be primarily for the purposes of nourishment. Students need healthy food during the school day to sustain the energy and concentration required for learning. To help ensure access to healthy food and beverages, it’s important that they are affordably priced.
The promotion and sale of healthy food and beverages in school reinforces the nutrition messages taught in the classroom and at home. When food and beverages of limited nutritional value (i.e. those that are high in sugars, sweeteners, fat, salt, and caffeine) are available or promoted to students at school, it becomes increasingly difficult to limit intakes.
Together with the home and other settings, schools can positively influence students’ food choices and eating habits. Parents and other caregivers are the primary role models for health behaviours in children and youth. School food policies and programs can complement the efforts of parents and other caregivers to ensure proper nutrition for children and youth in the school setting.
Eating well and being active take more than willpower. A policy that supports healthy food and beverage choices can help ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice in schools.
Policy documents are available in English and French from the Department of Education Food and Nutrition in Nova Scotia Schools web page.
Poor school food choices and nutrition were concerns expressed by growing numbers of school food stakeholders. To address these food and nutrition needs and concerns, and to be inclusive and reflect the complexity of the school food environment, the Office of Health Promotion and the Department of Health assembled partners from the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Together, staff from these departments formed the Healthy Foods in Nova Scotia Schools Steering Committee.
During discussions, the steering committee decided upon a consultation with provincial school key informants—school board program directors and selected elementary junior and senior high principals from across Nova Scotia-- to explore current processes, successes, challenges, and opportunities related to school food and nutrition. The results and recommendations from the environmental scan, along with the existing momentum in school communities to make improvements to school food, was used by the provincial government, community partners, and other school food stakeholders to move forward with a provincial school food and nutrition policy and standards.
For more information on download Food and Nutrition in Nova Scotia Schools: An Environmental Scan of Key School Informants in PDF foramt.
The Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools was created by educators, health professionals, parents, and students committed to student health and to improving the food and beverage choices available in schools. School boards and individual schools had already made the move to healthy school food policies and guidelines. As a result, the Department of Education and its partners decided to build on the great work that was already underway.
In September 2004, the Department of Education established a Food and Nutrition in Nova Scotia Schools Policy Work Group, tasked with developing the draft policy framework and guidelines. Membership included representatives of Nova Scotia Health and Wellness, the Department of Agriculture, the eight school boards, administrators, teachers, dietitians and nutritionists, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations, La Fédération des Parents Acadiens de la Nouvelle Écosse, the Annapolis Valley Health Promoting Schools Project, and the Cumberland County School Food Project.
A consultation draft of the Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools was released for public feedback in September and October 2005. Focus groups were held in all eight school boards, together with sessions for students, members of the food industry, and public health staff. The consultation produced over 1000 responses from parents, students, educators, boards, food industry representatives, health professionals and the public at large. The existing policy reflects the feedback from consultation as well as recommendations from the provincial policy work group. Government, non-government, and community partners, along with school boards, schools, parents, and students continue to work together to build health-promoting school communities in Nova Scotia.
The Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools describes standards for foods and beverages served and sold in schools. It also helps promote nutrition education in the curriculum, encourages community partnerships, and provides a supportive environment for healthy choices. The policy complements the efforts of other settings, including the home and larger community, to support healthy eating. Learning about nutrition in the classroom is most effective when it is reinforced with health-promoting environments that provide opportunities for students to practice what they learn.
The Food and Nutrition Policy for Nova Scotia Public Schools shows the government’s continued investment in children and youth. The health of children and youth is very important to government, school boards, district health authorities, schools, parents, and students. The policy is a key part of three provincial strategies: Health Promoting Schools, Healthy Eating Nova Scotia, and Learning for Life II: Brighter Futures Together.