What parents need to know about the school food and beverage policy

As of September 2011, all food and beverages sold in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools will have to follow the Ontario government’s School Food and Beverage Policy. The policy includes a set of nutrition standards for providing healthier food and beverages at school.

Here are eight things for parents to know about how this policy will affect the food your children eat while at school.

1) The reason a policy was developed

The policy has been developed to meet Canada’s Food Guide recommendations and to make sure that the food and beverages sold in schools will contribute to your child’s healthy growth and development.

Children eat about one third of their daily food and beverages while at school. This means that it is important for schools to be a place where children can practice healthy eating habits. Children who eat well are likely to learn better, be more active and make healthier choices as they grow up.  

2) The policy applies only to foods SOLD in schools. This includes:

  • Cafeterias
  • Vending machines
  • Tuck shops/canteens
  • Lunch programs that are catered (such as ‘pizza days’)
  • Fundraising events held at the school (like bake sales)
  • School related events that happen after hours but still on school property (like meet the teacher nights, school dances).

3) The policy does not apply to food and beverages that kids bring from home or buy off-school property to eat while at school.

Even though you don’t have to worry about meeting the policy for the lunches you pack for your kids, here are some resources that can help you pack a healthier lunch:

Packing Health School Lunches and Snacks FAQ

Simple Lunch Solutions

Food for a Balanced School Day

4) The policy does not apply to food and beverages that students receive at no cost or that are sold at the school during a non-school event such as:  

  • Birthdays
  • Other celebrations where food is free
  • Community events (like adult fitness classes) held in the school after hours

5) Food and beverages fall into one of three categories based on their nutrient content. The categories describe whether a food or beverage can be sold in school. The categories are:

Sell Most: 80% of the food and beverages sold in all venues (like a cafeteria), through all programs (like a catered lunch program), and at all events (like a bake sale) must meet these requirements.

Sell Less: No more than 20% of the food and beverages sold in all venues (like a cafeteria), through all programs (like a catered lunch program), and at all events (like a bake sale) can meet these requirements.

Not Permitted for Sale: Food and beverages that fall into this category will no longer be sold in schools.

Click here for an example of how the categories work.

6)  The school principal with the school council, can decide on a maximum of 10 days during the school year to be “special-event” days.

During special-event days, the nutrition standards do not have to be followed. Some examples of special-event days might be:

  • Pizza day
  • Bake sales
  • School dances
  • Holiday celebrations

Schools are still encouraged to sell foods that meet the policy even on special-event days. For example, on Pizza Day schools could still sell pizzas that meet the nutrition standards.

7) The policy works with other aspects of the school environment that support health such as:

8) Resources to help you better understand the policy

If you have questions about the policy, healthy eating at school or need ideas for school lunches and snacks call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

The EatRight Ontario website has tools and tips for a healthier school day:

Featured topic: School Health

It’s back to school time! 10 tips to make this school year healthier

Peanut-free Lunches and Snacks

Bake It Up!: Tasty treats for healthier school bake sales

At-A-Glance Guide to Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy: This six-page guide provides an overview of Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy

The Ministry of Education website has resources that can help you better understand the school policy:

FAQ on the Nutrition Standards for Schools


School Food and Beverage Quick Reference Guide (You can use this guide to figure out how foods fit into the three categories: Sell Most, Sell Less and Not Permitted for Sale)

School Food & Beverage Policy Website: Here you'll find interactive tools to help in the successful implementation of the Ministry of Education's School Food and Beverage Policy:


Last Update – August 9, 2017

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