Food provision: Local, provincial and territorial regulation of public sector nutrition policies

Learn how local, provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating in public institutions

Inside this healthy eating policy pack

Public sector nutrition policies


Food provision


Public sector nutrition policies 1,2,3,4

  • Nutrition standards for public procurement 2
  • Public procurement through “short” chains (e.g., local farmers) 2
  • Require all government and publicly funded facilities that provide catering to ensure that their meals, foods and drinks are of high nutritional quality 1,3
  • Reduction of portion sizes of processed meals, dishes and snacks, and foods and drinks 3
  • Do not allow vending machines that offer snacks high in sugar, fat or salt, or sugary drinks and withdraw such ‘fast’ foods and drinks from canteens 3

Degree of policy adoption*

Provinces and territories: MEDIUM
31 Canadian municipalities:** MEDIUM

Current action(s) in Canada

Provinces and territories

There are many examples of policies that require the provision of healthy food in specific settings such as child care centres, long-term care facilities and residential care homes.

  • 8 provinces/territories have policies directing healthy food choices for child care centres: NL, NB, QC, MB, SK, AB, NT, YK, with most following Canada’s Food Guide.
  • 4 provinces/territories have general Child Care Acts, specifying or allowing additional nutrition regulations (NL, SK, YK, NS).
  • 3 provinces require long-term care facilities and community care facilities to use Canada’s Food Guide: PEI, ON, AB
  • 6 provinces require residential long-term care facilities, personal care homes, addiction centres or foster/group homes to provide food according to Canada’s Food Guide: MB, ON, NS, AB, SK, QC

A couple of early adopters in Canada related to healthy vending machines and canteens in public institutions include:

Finally, a few provinces have emerged as early adopters of public procurement through “short” chains:

  • NB’s Local Food and Beverages Strategy encourages local procurement and “improved health of NB through increased availability of fresh local food”
  • ON’s Local Food Act encourages local food production, and public and private collaboration.
  • QC’s Food Policy supports growers and local farm-to-table production.

31 Canadian municipalities**

Municipalities across Canada are beginning to require public institutions to provide high nutritional quality food and drinks.  Local governments with policies broadly addressing public settings include:

  • Hamilton’s Bylaw to License and Regulate Various Businesses requires that residential care facility tenants are served daily sufficient food of good quality and adequate nutritional and caloric value as described in guidelines determined by the Medical Officer of Health.5 Hamilton is the only city of the 31 municipalities with municipal policy specifically for residential care facilities.
  • The Hamilton Healthy Food and Beverage Policy requires 75% healthy food choices in city workplaces and prohibits trans fats from workplace canteens.6
  • St John’s’ Nutrition Policy covers all property owned and operated by the city. The policy requires that all foods purchased by the City or served to employees should be nutritious as defined by Canada’s Food Guide. This policy also includes vending machines. Vending machine snacks must include at least 75% from healthier “Serve Most / Serve Moderately” categories.
  • New Westminster, BC’s Healthy Food Service Policy 7,8 requires at least 50% of foods served in city settings to be from the healthier “Choose Most or Choose Sometimes” categories.
  • 61 municipalities in Quebec have banned the sale of energy drinks in municipal buildings, many through resolutions of municipal councils.9
Recreation and sports facilities

Some local governments also have policies restricting availability of unhealthy foods and beverages in recreation and sports facilities, including vending machines.

  • Edmonton’s Operational Guidelines related to vending machines 10 require a minimum of 50% healthy choices in snack and vending machines in recreation settings.
  • Hamilton’s Healthy Nutritional Environments in City Recreational Facilities targets a 20-25% increase in healthy foods in vending machines
  • Montreal’s borough of Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, through its Policy on Healthy Lifestyles will increase healthy food offerings and phase out trans fats and sugar-sweetened beverages from arenas, sports complexes and other recreation facilities in canteens and vending machines as contracts come up for renewal.11
  • Salaberry-de-Valleyfield’s Nutrition Policy 12 increases the availability of healthy food in recreation and municipal buildings, including in vending machines.
Local food procurement
  • Toronto’s Local Food Procurement Policy encourages local food procurement related to provision of food purchased for City operations. RFPs and RFQs to purchase food for City of Toronto operations (greater than $3,000) include language indicating that it is a policy objective of the City to increase the percentage of food that is grown locally.
  • In addition, the City of Thunder Bay 13 has a Sustainable Environmental and Ethical Procurement bylaw that encourages local food procurement.

Opportunities for action

Nutrition standards

Most policies set minimum standards for nutrition based on Canada’s Food Guide. Existing regulations can be seen as a basis for future requirements related to food quality, such as procurement policies,1,14,15 evidence-based food rating systems for child-eating guidelines,14 or requiring training of cooks in publicly-funded facilities to support the preparation of healthy food.1,14

Policies to strengthen nutrition standards and procurement policies in public institutions and provide support for successful implementation of these policies have been identified as high priority for implementation at the provincial/territorial level.1 Opportunities exist to strengthen these policies in public institutions in settings such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, recreation centres, and correctional services.1

Vending machines and canteens

Standards to regulate vending machines and canteens in public institutions at the local and provincial/territorial levels are opportunities to increase healthy food and beverage choices. Such policies have been identified as high priority for implementation at the provincial/territorial level in settings such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, recreation centres, and correctional services.1   

Local food procurement

Local food procurement policies are also an opportunity to promote and increase availability of fresh, locally sourced food beyond local programs that exist (e.g., farm-to-school requirements).16 Municipalities could introduce local food policies or strengthen existing procurement 1 or greenhouse gas emission policies to include regulations related to local food.

The NWT Healthy Communities Toolkit provides sample healthy eating policies for municipalities.17 Coalition Poids provides a model resolution as guidance to municipalities interested in adopting an energy drink ban within public buildings.9

* Levels of adoption:  LOW = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; MEDIUM = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; HIGH = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action.

** Prevention Policies Directory captures information for 31 Canadian municipalities (18 largest municipalities in Canada, and at least 1-2 largest municipalities in all other provinces/territories).


1 Vanderlee L, Goorang S, Karbasy K, Schermel A, L’Abbe M. Creating healthier food environments in Canada: Current policies and priority actions – Summary report. Toronto; University of Toronto, 2017.

2 World Cancer Research Fund International. NOURISHING policy framework. Retrieved from:

3 World Cancer Research Fund International. (2009). Policy recommendations. Retrieved from:

4 World Health Organization (2013). Global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases:

5 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2016). The City of Hamilton’s corporate food and beverage policy: POWER Up! Policy stories. Retrieved from:

6 Atkey, K., Elliott-Moyer, P., Freimanis, M. & Raine, K. (2017). Stories of policy change: City of Hamilton’s healthy food and beverage policy. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 108(5-6). Retrieved from:

7 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2016). Building capacity of healthier food environments in British Columbia recreational facilities: POWER Up! Policy stories. Retrieved from:

8 Corporation of the City of New Westminister. (2013). Request for proposal, NWRFP-13-26: Food Vending Services. Retrieved from:

9 Coalition Poids, Priorities: Healthy cities. Retrieved from:

10 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2016). Building momentum for healthy food policy in Edmonton recreation centres: POWER Up! Policy stories. Retrieved from:

11 Ville de Montréal – Côte-des-Neiges-de-Notre-Dame-de-Grace. (2011). Politique en faveur de saines habitudes de vie. Retrieved from: 

12 Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Politique Alimentaire, Salaberry-de-Valleyfield: Pour une ville en santé! Retrieved from:


14 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2018). Alberta’s Nutrition Report Card on Healthy Food Environments for Children and Youth. Retrieved from:

15 Sustain Ontario. (2015). Local sustainable food procurement for municipalities and the broader public sector – toolkit. Retrieved from:

16 Food Secure Canada. (2017). Canadian policy interventions supporting healthy eating in schools. Retrieved from:

17 Northwest Territories association of Communities (NWTAC). Healthy eating toolkit. Retrieved from: