Healthy Schools and Literacy Policies

Our children spend an average of 30 – 50 hours per week in school. Schools are a central community hub in the lives of children and should be places that encourage and support healthy behaviours.

Teaching and supporting healthful habits like healthy eating, physical activity, social and emotional wellness are all important in the early stages of a child’s life, which can help them lead healthy lives in adulthood. In addition, education, literacy and training are acknowledged as vehicles for transcending low socio-economic circumstances including health status.

Nutritious food is an important contributing factor to children’s academic performance. Evidence has shown that school food programs are effective for increasing students’ knowledge about nutrition and health, fruit and vegetable consumption, and willingness to try new foods as well as improving students’ focus and academic achievement. [i] [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] [vi]

Beyond high school, basic literacy skills are needed by all citizens and yet, seventeen percent (17%) of British Columbians have low literacy. Literacy skills enhance employment opportunities as well as a person’s ability to use and understand written and verbal communication and thereby participate in society.

In order for our children to be successful, they need to be healthy.

BCAHL recommends the following policy options:

  • BCAHL encourages government to establish a Universal Healthy School Food program to ensure that children across BC have access to good nutrition so that they can focus on learning and build skills to lead healthy lives. Development of a Universal Healthy School Food Program can draw on the expertise of many knowledgeable leaders currently delivering successful programs such as BC’s Farm to School Initiative.
  • Expand programs that teach youth food and cooking skills to promote healthy eating.
  • Commit and fund additional human resources to support the early identification of students who may withdraw from their education prior to graduation.
    • Provide intensive individualized instruction including the use of tutoring and mentoring programs delivered by teachers interested and trained to work with at-risk students.
  • Integrate the delivery of child and youth assessment and support services to address substance abuse, teen pregnancy and young parenthood, suicide prevention, counselling and other mental and physical health issues into schools in consultation and coordination with the school and school district administrators, school psychologists and social service /public health agencies.
  • Ensure all professionals working with Indigenous and immigrant students have a proven level of cultural competency and access to training.
  • Work with First Nations communities and educators to develop a plan to increase the rate of Indigenous children graduating from high school to the same rates as non-Indigenous children within ten years.
  • Increase support for low-income students to pursue post-secondary education and vocational training opportunities by building on the BC Grant, the BC Loan Reduction.
  • Prioritize investments in Active School Travel Planning, including education and programming as well as coordination with local government planning and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on the development of street design and end-use facilities for healthy, active children.
  • Consider active transportation when situating new schools and in existing schools – both in terms of facilities that create safe routes and education that encourages walking and cycling.
  • Program and extending support for students in one-year training programs.
  • Review and strengthen support for adult basic education training.
  • Encourage literacy programs particularly in the workplace.


[i] MacKelvie, K., & Richardson, L. (2013, October 31). BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program: Evaluation 2012 – 2013.

[ii] Joshi, A., Misako Azuma, A., & Feenstra, G. (2008). Do Farm-to-School Programs Make a Difference? Findings and Future Research Needs. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 3(2–3), 229–246.

[iii] Evidence Brief: Impact of Food Skills Programs on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption among Children and Youth. (2016). Public Health Ontario.

[iv] Stevens L, Nelson, M. The contribution of school meals and packed lunch to food consumption and nutrient intakes in UK primary school children from a low income population. In. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Vol 242011.

[v] Muthuswamy, E. (2012). Feeding Our Future: The First and Second-Year Evaluation. Toronto District School Board.

[vi] Brown, J. L., Beardslee, W. H., & Prothrow-Stith, D. (2008). “Impact of School Breakfast on Children’s Health and Learning: An analysis of the scientific research.” Retrieved from: http://us.stop-hunger. org/files/live/sites/stophunger-us/files/HungerPdf/Impact%20 of%20School%20Breakfast%20Study_tcm150-212606.pdf