Educators play an instrumental role in creating a positive school nutrition environment. Recent best practice evidence suggests there has been a major paradigm shift in how to teach children 12 and under about food and nutrition.
One of the biggest changes is that the terms healthy and unhealthy are no longer considered best practices when describing food to children 12 and under. A more effective strategy would be to provide experiential learning opportunities using food. For ideas on how to implement this change, the Health Unit Dietitians recommend educators apply the following two approaches when speaking about food and nutrition:
- For students aged 12 and under, focus on using a food neutral and food exploration approaches to nutrition education see the Teach Food First resource.
- Make it a practice not to comment on students’ lunches. Understand that many factors influence what foods families provide. Trust students to listen to their own hunger cues.
The teacher is responsible for:
- When and where students eat
Parents are responsible for:
- What children bring to school for lunch
- Child is responsible for:
- Whether they eat, how much they eat, and in what order foods are eaten
- Embrace that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
- Use foods from Canada’s Food Guide in classroom lessons or school activities.
- Offer food items in Student Nutrition Programs that meet the nutrition guidelines.
- Encourage students to eat together and provide at least 25 minutes of eating time. Limit distractions and turn off screens.
- Offer nutritious and appealing menu items and create a warm social environment in the cafeteria.
- Use non-food rewards for student recognition (e.g., stickers, pencils, high fives, classroom privileges).
- Engage in healthy fundraising initiatives – include physical activity and non-food fundraisers.
- For students aged 14 and above, focus on food literacy. Food Literacy applies a comprehensive approach and is more than just teaching about Canada’s Food Guide and/ or preparing food. Food Literacy is:
- Knowing about Food & Nutrition
- What ingredients are in food? What nutrients are in food? How can food affect your health? Where food comes from? What language to use to describe food?
- Having food skills
- Being able to plan and shop for meals, chop food, measure ingredients, use a recipe, and handle food safely.
- Feeling confident when choosing, preparing, and eating food
- Being able to read a food label; know what true or false nutrition information is.
- Belief you can choose and buy food that is healthier for you on a regular basis.
- Belief you can cook tasty meals using the food and tools you have
- It’s your relationship with food or your ‘food attitude’ – enjoying food and eating with others.
- Making healthier food decisions most of the time
- Outside things that may improve food literacy include – having a supportive food system, food environment; living situation; and culture and traditions