School Food and Beverage Policy

The Ontario government has introduced its School Food and Beverage Policy that includes nutrition standards for food and beverages sold in schools. The policy will apply to food and beverages sold:

 in all venues on school property such as cafeterias, vending machines and tuck shops;
 through all programs, included catered lunch programs; and
 at all events on school property, including bake sales and sport events, for school purposes.

The nutrition standards do not apply to food and beverages that are brought from home.

The policy was announced in January 2010 and school boards must be in full compliance with the policy by September 1, 2012. The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has begun its work associated with this provincial initiative.  Training and information sessions were held with elementary and secondary principals and school council chairs in May 2010. We are working very closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and the Champlain District Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network (CCPN) on the implementation of this policy in our schools and numerous information sessions have also been held through OPH. Our Purchasing Department and OPH are also working closely with our contracted cafeteria and external food service providers to assist with this transition in our schools. 

As additional information becomes available it will be shared with school principals and school communities and will include updates to the OCDSB web site.

A copy of the presentation provided at the May sessions can be found below:


Click here for Letter of Compliance Template


Schools have an important role to play in helping students lead healthier lives, including teaching students the skills to make healthy choices and reinforcing those lessons through school practices. With the implementation of Ontario's new school food and beverage policy. Ontario will soon have a healthier approach to selling lunches, snacks and drinks. The nutrition standardspart of Ontario's new School Food and Beverage Policy, P/PM 150 — help schools provide healthy menu items for all students.  The nutrition standards embody the principles of healthy eating outlined in Canada’s Food Guide and are intended to ensure that the food and beverages sold in schools contribute to students' healthy growth and development. Introducing nutrition standards is one part of the government’s plan to develop healthy learning environments and improve student achievement in Ontario schools. Research has shown that children who eat a healthy diet are more attentive, more ready to learn and more likely to be successful in school.

How Do the Nutrition Standards Work?
As a guide on what can and cannot be sold in Ontario schools, the nutrition standards divide all food and beverage products into three categories:

Healthiest, Sell Most (80%): Products in this category are the healthiest option and generally have higher levels of essential nutrients and lower amounts of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. They must make up at least 80 per cent of all food and beverage choices that are available for sale.

Healthy, Sell Less (20%): Products in this category may have slightly higher amounts of fat, sugar, and/or sodium than food and beverages in the Sell Most category. They must make up no more than 20 per cent of all food and beverage choices that are available for sale. In addition, food prepared and served by schools should always be prepared in a healthy way using cooking methods that require little or no added fat or sodium, such as baking, barbequing, boiling, broiling, grilling, microwaving, poaching, roasting, steaming or stir-frying.

Not Permitted for Sale:Products in this category generally contain few or no essential nutrients and/or contain high amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium. Food and beverages in this category may not be sold in schools and include such items as: candy, energy drinks, sports drinks, deep-fried and other fried foods.

The Ministry’s School Food and Beverage Policy – Quick Reference Guide 2010 provides information on the above categories and the formulas used to determine the nutrition standards.


The standards do not apply to food and beverages that are:

  Brought from home or purchased off of school premises and are not for resale in schools
  Offered in schools to students at no cost
  Available for purchase during field trips off school premises
  Sold in schools for non-school purposes (e.g. sold by an outside organization that is using the gymnasium after school hours for a non-school related event)
  Sold for fundraising activities that occur off school premises
  Sold in staff rooms

Special Event Days:
In consultation with school council, the school principal may designate up to 10 “special-event” days throughout the year, which are exempt from the standards. Although “special-event” days allow greater flexibility with food and beverages, schools are encouraged to consider selling food and beverages that meet the nutrition standards.

Learn More

The following are links to the Ministry’s website where you can find information on the Ministry’s School Food and Beverage Policy:

More Resources

Visit Canada’s Food Guide for information on healthy eating, nutrition labels and more at

Check Foodland Ontario for information on local and seasonal foods throughout the province at

Find healthy recipes, plus information on nutrition, menu planning and healthy weights at Eat Right Ontario at

Ottawa Public Health at

OCDSB Contact

Reg Lavergne, System Principal, Curriculum Services. Reg can be reached at [email protected] or (613) 596-8211 Ext. 8327.

Ministry of Ontario’s FAQ

School Food and Beverage Policy - Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why has the government released a school food and beverage policy? 
A. The government passed the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act in April 2008 to make schools healthier places for students to learn.
We want to create an environment where the healthiest choices are the easiest choices for students to make.
This policy is an important step in enhancing students' health. It reinforces the knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding healthy eating developed through the Ontario curriculum. The policy will also help reduce students' risks of developing serious, chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Q. What does this policy mean for schools?
A. All food and beverages sold in schools for school purposes must meet the nutrition standards set out in the policy. This includes food and beverages sold in all venues (e.g., cafeterias, vending machines, tuck shops), through all programs (e.g., catered lunch programs), and at all events (e.g., bake sales, sports events).

Q. When does this change take effect? 
A. All schools must comply with the School Food and Beverage Policy by September 1, 2011. However, schools are encouraged to consider implementing the policy as soon as possible.

Q. Will this increase the cost of food sold in schools? 
A. Healthier food does not necessarily cost more.
A study done by the University of Minnesota found that more nutritious lunches don't necessarily cost more to produce. It also found that school lunch sales don't decline because healthier meals are served.

Q. Do the nutrition standards apply to food or beverages sold for fundraising activities?
A. It depends where the fundraising takes place. The nutrition standards apply to food and beverages sold on school premises for school purposes, including fundraising.
The nutrition standards do not apply to food and beverages sold off school premises. This would include fundraising activities that occur in a community centre or door-to-door.

Q. What about special-event days such as pizza lunches? 
A. A school principal, in consultation with the school council, may designate up to ten days as special-event days on which food and beverages sold in schools would be exempt from the nutrition standards. Principals are also encouraged to consult with their students in making these decisions.
However, schools are encouraged to consider selling food and beverages that meet the nutrition standards or non-food related items for all celebrations.

Q. Who was consulted in developing this policy?
A. The policy was developed by the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Ministries of Health Promotion, Children and Youth Services and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The Ministry of Education formed the Nutrition Standards for Schools Committee, a sub-committee of the ministry's Healthy Schools Working Table that included representatives from education, health and the food industry sectors, to advise on the development of the policy and nutrition standards. Consultations were also held with over 40 organizations and groups.

Q. Do other jurisdictions have school food and beverage policies? 
A. Yes, many jurisdictions have policies and most Canadian provinces have policies or guidelines related to food and beverages in schools. For example, British Columbia has mandatory guidelines that apply to all food and beverages sold to students.

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