OUr Guiding principles

School food programs have the potential to improve children's lives, to strengthen communities, and to transform food systems. Several principles based on best practices can ensure these programs live up to their full potential.


School food programs welcome all students in a school community. They are offered at no cost or subsidized cost to families, and administered in a non-stigmatizing manner. In a shared cost model, payment is made in a way that ensures privacy. Programs are promoted to ensure that all students have access to healthy food in school daily.


School food programs focus on the provision of whole foods, and in particular vegetables and fruit. A focus on the provision of a variety of vegetables and fruit (such as requiring lunches to include a minimum of two servings daily with variation) helps to simplify the task for schools and districts. Focusing on the foods that do fit within a healthy diet also provides an important modelling opportunity.


Programs are sustainable financially and in terms of capacity-building. This means ensuring that school food program staff and volunteers receive adequate training to ensure they understand their role in teaching and role modelling for students. Funding at the local level is stable and partnerships to support the program are created. Critical to the success of school food programs is regular monitoring and evaluation. This includes ensuring financial transparency and accountability for programs at the federal and more local levels.


Programs respect local conditions and needs so as to be culturally appropriate and locally adapted. Programs in diverse inner cities will look different from those in remote Northern communities, for example, and involvement by stakeholders with local experience is critical to success.


Programs are connected to local communities and work towards drawing upon local food resources where possible, supporting local producers and creating economic multipliers. Programs also engage the broader community including parents, grandparents, local businesses, and community leaders to foster sustainability.


Programs work towards integration with curricula to incorporate food literacy, nutrition education and food skills. Students are involved with school food programs through hands-on food growing, preparation, budgeting, management and other learning to foster experiential learning (learning by doing).

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These principles have been informed by the article "The case for a Canadian national school food program" in the Canadian Food Studies Journal Vol 5 No 3 (2018).

Download a summary of qualities that members of the Coalition would like to see in a School Food Program for Canada.

Coalition for Healthy School Food

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© 2018 by the Coalition for Healthy School Food. The Coalition for Healthy School Food is a network coordinated by Food Secure Canada.