Healthy eating policies

Food retail  

  • Definition: Government has the power to implement policies and programs to support the availability of healthy foods and limit the availability of unhealthy foods in communities (outlet density and locations) and in-store (product placement).  

H2: Provincial/Territorial healthy eating policy analysis   

  • The degree of policy adoption is LOW – other than policies regulating food sales in schools, very few provinces/territories have enacted policies regulating food retail.   
  • 9 provinces/territories have policies that regulate the sales of food in schools to promote healthy eating – NL, NS, NB, PE, SK, MB, BC, YT, ON. These provinces have varying strategies to promote healthy eating, some of which include restricting the sales of junk food in school cafeterias and vending machines.   
  • British Columbia’s Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy prohibits vending machine sales of unhealthy food in buildings occupied by provincial ministries, health authorities and public post-secondary institutions.   
  • While all provinces and territories have planning acts that provide direction related to community planning and land use as well as guidance on authority of local governments, these acts generally do not address specifics related to healthy food environments.  
  • Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement goes beyond what is adopted in other jurisdictions, providing additional guidance on land use and provides direction on healthy community planning across the province. 

H2: Municipal healthy eating policy analysis  

  • The degree of policy adoption is MEDIUM – all local government policies reviewed have planning policies (e.g., official plans, land-use, and zoning bylaws) that provide direction about where food retail and service outlets can be located.   
  • A few local governments have introduced policies placing restrictions on food outlets. A variety of municipalities have implemented policies that place restrictions on locations of where drive-thru fast-food restaurants can be built.  
  • Two municipalities have implemented bylaws that restrict ice cream vendors from areas near schools, parks and/or beaches.   
  • Surrey’s Business License Bylaw prohibits ice cream vendors from selling products in commercial areas, parks, beaches and school grounds – restricting their business to residential areas only.  
  • Charlottetown’s Street Vendors Bylaw has outlined restrictions on ice cream sales on any street beside a public park, playground, athletic field where refreshments are available, or within 30 metres of any school.  

H2: Opportunities for action 

  • The overall low to medium attention given to food retail policies could be strengthened to provide increased access to healthy food within communities and ultimately lead to healthier diets and cancer prevention.      
  • Future policy direction should improve access to healthy food in a variety of settings across Canada. Some policy options could include: 
  • Improving access to healthy food in retail settings or restaurants. 
  • Regulating unhealthy food retail in settings like recreational or health care facilities. 
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