Food provision: Provincial and territorial regulation of school nutrition policies

Learn how provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating in schools

Inside this healthy eating policy pack

School nutrition policies


Food provision


School nutrition policies 1,2,3,4

  • Mandatory standards for food available in schools and early childhood education and care services, including restrictions on unhealthy food 1,2
  • Reduction of portion sizes of processed meals, dishes and snacks, and foods and drinks 3
  • Bans specific to vending machines in schools 2

Degree of policy adoption*

Provinces and territories: MEDIUM

Current action(s) in Canada

There are many examples of policies covering the provision of healthy foods in schools, although these range in terms of their comprehensiveness and potential for impact on food environments.5,6

Mandatory policies exist in 6 provinces/territories (BC, ON, NB, NS, PE, YK). These provinces, as well as QC, ban the sale of junk food in schools (foods considered to be of low nutritional quality because of high fat content, calories, sugar, or salt). Two provinces (MB, SK) have mandatory district-level guidelines. Recommended guidelines exist in the other 3 provinces (AB, NL, QC). No policies exist in NU and NT, although development of guidelines is underway.

Other examples include:

Opportunities for action

Greater reach would come with mandated policies at the provincial/territorial level, and with policies that expand the comprehensiveness of the policies.1,7,8

A “serve least/serve sometimes/serve most” framework 9 is currently used to improve food choices in schools in 6 provinces (ON, NL, BC, PE, MB, SK). This framework represents an opportunity to improve legislation across all jurisdictions.

* 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.


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 Food Secure Canada. Policy atlas local sustainable food systems. Retrieved from:

6 Food Secure Canada.(2017). Summary table: Policy interventions supporting healthy eating in schools. Retrieved from:

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

8 Institut national de santé publique du Québec. (2008). Les politiques alimentaires en milieu scolaire: Une synthèse de connaissances sur le processus d’implantation. Retrived from:

9 Food Secure Canada. (2013). Provincial and territorial guidance document for the development of nutrient criteria for foods and beverages in schools. Retrieved from: