Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) has developed Administrative Procedure 164, Nutrition to guide the work of schools, staff, and parents in providing a healthy school nutrition environment for students.
Why has EIPS created a nutrition administrative procedure?
Food choices during childhood and adolescence help to fuel optimal growth and development and lay the foundation for lifelong eating habits. EIPS created AP 164, Nutrition in 2015–2016 to reinforce the healthy eating messages that we already teach students in the classroom and because healthy eating is related to better school performance. AP 164 is an important step in enhancing students’ health. It reinforces the knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding healthy eating developed through the Alberta Education Programs of Study. The nutrition AP embodies the principles of healthy eating outlined in Canada’s Food Guide and the Alberta Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Youth (ANGCY) and is intended to ensure the food and beverages served and sold in schools contribute to students’ healthy growth and development. Because many meals and snacks are consumed at school, it is important to ensure that children and youth are able to access healthy food choices.
What does AP 164 mean for schools?
In summary, AP 164 encourages food and beverages served and sold in schools to be ‘Choose Most Often’ and ‘Choose Sometimes’ foods with an emphasis on ‘Choose Most Often’ foods. These categories are defined by the ANGCY. Food and beverage items served and sold in schools must meet the nutrition standards set out in the administrative procedure. This includes food and beverages served and sold in all venues (e.g., cafeterias, vending machines, canteens) and through all programs (e.g., hot lunch programs, fundraisers), and all events (e.g., bake sales, sports events, classroom parties, family evenings).
When does AP 164 take effect?
Schools are encouraged to implement healthy eating practices as soon as possible. All schools must comply with AP 164 by September 1, 2017.
What is a comprehensive school health approach to creating a healthy school nutrition environment?
EIPS supports a Comprehensive School Health (CSH) approach to healthy eating which includes four components:
- Healthy School Policy (e.g., EIPS nutrition administrative procedure)
- Teaching and Learning (e.g., curriculum, classroom)
- Social and Physical Environments (e.g., canteens, classroom celebrations, sports events)
- Partnerships and Services (e.g., parents, local business, teachers, community members)
A ‘whole school approach’ to creating a healthy school nutrition environment gets everyone in the school, from teachers to parents, working together to make sure students receive the same messages about healthy eating whenever lessons are taught and food is served and sold in the classroom, in the school, and hopefully in the home and in the community. For example, students learn to limit sweets such as cookies, chocolate bars, and candies as part of their lessons on Canada’s Food Guide. It would give students a mixed message if we asked them to sell chocolate bars to raise money or if a teacher gave candy as a reward. So, to adopt a ‘whole school approach,’ fundraisers would sell healthy food items (e.g., produce, gift cards for a greenhouse) or non-food items and classroom celebrations would include only healthy foods.
Does AP 164 step into parent boundaries?
AP 164 does not apply to foods that are brought from home for individual lunches or snacks. The procedure will apply to foods brought for classroom parties and celebrations. Parents have a great opportunity to support the school and reinforce a healthy food environment and can be encouraged to offer healthy food choices. To help support the transition period, parents will receive ideas and tips for healthy options for celebrations.
What is the role of the teacher and other staff to support AP 164?
Adults can contribute to a healthy school environment by:
- Offering food-alternative rewards that are age appropriate. Examples include pencils, stickers, iTunes minutes, etc.
- Defining the frequency of classroom special food days and celebrations in yearly calendars and encouraging healthy food options be offered on these days.
- Providing positive messages and role modeling healthy food behaviours.
- Forming or joining a health and wellness team at school.
What is the role of the principal to support AP 164?
Principals can do such things as:
- Coordinate with School Councils members to arrange healthy fundraisers and hot lunch menus that comply with AP 164.
- Schedule lunch breaks that provide time for eating, socialization, and recreation.
- Define the frequency of “Choose Least Often” foods on special food days/celebrations in a school calendar.
- Review AP 164 with food suppliers to ensure food items selected are from the “Choose Most Often” and “Choose Sometimes” food categories.
- Review practices with staff and School Councils annually to ensure they are consistent with the AP.
What is EIPS doing to support AP 164?
- Applying for grants to support implementation across the Division.
- Offering professional learning opportunities about healthy eating, active living, and positive social environments.
- Linking with community organizations and Alberta Health Services to support implementation and other advancements in school health.
- Developing a parent handbook to provide parents with suggestions for hosting fun and engaging celebrations using healthy foods and activities.
What foods can be offered in the schools?
The food categories of “Choose Most Often” (CMO), “Choose Sometimes” (CS), and “Choose Least Often” (CLO) are available to guide food choices.
- “Choose Most Often” foods are ‘high nutrient foods’ that are recommended as healthy choices in Canada’s Food Guide. CMO foods should be consumed daily in appropriate amounts and portion sizes. A variety of foods from the four food groups (Vegetables and Fruit; Grain Products; Meat and Alternatives; and Milk and Alternatives) identified in Canada’s Food Guide will provide a balanced diet.
- “Choose Sometimes” are ‘moderate nutrient foods’. While they may still provide beneficial nutrients, they tend to be higher in added sugar, sodium (salt), or unhealthy fat. No more than three servings from this category are recommended per week.
- “Choose Least Often” foods are ‘low nutrient foods’ and are higher in calories, sugar, sodium, or unhealthy fat. They should be eaten less frequently, preferably in the home environment, one serving per week, and in small portion sizes.
What are some guiding principles to help guide food choices?
- Encourage vegetables and fruit wherever food is served and sold. Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and fruit can be healthy choices as long as they do not have added sugar or salt (e.g., unsweetened frozen berries).
- Select 100% whole grains. This includes breads, other baked goods, pastas, and rice.
- Watch for added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fat content. These factors can rule out foods right away.
- Promote water to quench thirst and provide hydration. Provide access to milk and fortified soy beverages. It is best to eat vegetables and fruit rather than drinking juice. If offering juice, ensure it is 100% juice and available in small quantities. The ANGCY recommends no more than ½ cup (125ml) of juice a day (e.g., a small juice box).
- The ANGCY does not recommend sugar substitutes from either artificial or natural sources (e.g., aspartame, stevia, etc.) for children and youth.
- Choose and prepare foods that are baked, broiled, or steamed rather than fried.
How can we engage parents and students?
Parents and students can be engaged in a many ways. Try offering students ‘taste testers’ and a variety of healthy foods and having them choose what they would like served at school food events. Work with parents through School Councils so they are aware of and can support AP 164.
What are some resources to identify healthy food choices?
- Ever Active Schools, in partnership with the University of Alberta, School of Public Health, has created an excellent video and tool kit to support school communities in creating healthy eating environments.
- A list of resources about healthy eating for schools and families is available.