Health topic: Nutrition Health Promotion

Focus on food literacy

What's it about?

Food literacy is a broad set of behaviours, skills, and mindsets about food and nutrition. It’s like a toolbox for healthy eating—one we carry for life.

Food literacy includes:

  • Food knowledge, like understanding how food is grown and prepared
  • Nutrition knowledge, like having a grasp on common terms in nutrition, understanding Canada's Food Guide, and knowing about nutrients in food
  • Skills and confidence to prepare food safely and follow recipes
  • Ability to identify credible nutrition information and make sense of it
  • Willingness to try new foods and to enjoy eating with others
  • Understanding how food is connected to health and the social determinants of health

Students who develop food literacy are empowered to make informed decisions about nutrition, and are set for a lifelong journey with healthy eating.

 

What's involved?

Building food literacy at school requires flexibility and creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to use routine public health practices and follow requirements for serving food in your local school authority.

 

Make food literacy part of everyday learning

Food literacy isn’t something that grows out of a single, stand-alone opportunity. Look for opportunities to integrate food and nutrition concepts across the curriculum—with a little creativity, food literacy can be part of your routine teaching practice. Here are some examples:   

  • Discuss food waste and environmental sustainability in Science.
  • Adjust measurements or calculate recipe yields in Mathematics.
  • Read food labels and compare food options in Health and Life Skills.
  • Write about how marketing can influence your food choices in English Language Arts.

  • Explore traditional ways to grow, hunt, fish, or prepare food in Social Studies.
  • Practice storing, handling, and preparing foods safely in Career and Technology Foundations. Find classroom activities for grades 7-12 in Alberta food safety facts: Teacher resource kit.
  • Compare the cost of eating take-out versus eating at home as part of Career and Life Management.

 

Use authentic tasks

Authentic tasks help students connect with real-world challenges and allow for inquiry. They can engage and excite students about healthy eating, and help to build food literacy. Here are some examples of tasks students may be able to take on:

  • Create a healthy menu or feature item for the canteen or cafeteria.
  • Plan a grocery store shopping list based on a healthy recipe to make at home.
  • Publish a cookbook featuring healthy recipes from families.
  • Design, grow, or maintain a school or community garden.
  • Start a virtual cooking club (with online community partners like local food producers, grocers, chefs, and Registered Dietitians).
  • Connect with local farms, greenhouses, or produce markets to find opportunities for service learning, volunteering, or summer employment.

 

Nurture a healthy relationship with food

As an educator, you play an important role in helping students to develop a positive mindset around healthy eating. Take time to reflect on your words and actions when it comes to food and nutrition. Here are some actions to consider:

  • Try to talk about food in a positive way. Focus on the appealing aspects of healthy eating instead of the negative consequences of poor nutrition. Try to avoid:
    • Using labels like 'junk food'
    • Talking about fad diets
    • Commenting on students' snacks or lunches brought from home
  • Encourage students to pay attention to their hunger and fullness cues, and to eat nutritious food that suits their cultural preference. Talk about how we use food to nourish our bodies and give us energy.
  • Try to eat with your students, at least once in a while. Limit distractions (like noise and digital devices) and connect with them through conversations or stories. Enjoy your food together.
  • Get involved in efforts to promote healthy eating across the school community, including staff wellness activities.

For more tips to support a healthy relationship with food, check out these materials from Ontario Dietitians in Public Health: 

Mental health and weight bias in schools

Nurturing healthy eaters in elementary school

Nurturing healthy eaters in secondary school

  

How it connects

Food literacy is an evolving concept that can influence whether students choose healthy options (like vegetables and fruits) when given the opportunity. It also improves confidence in their ability to prepare healthy food and may help to build life-long healthy eating patterns.

Food literacy is one aspect of a whole-school nutrition strategy, guided by the comprehensive school health framework and involving coordinated action to address policies, environments, and practices.

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