We provide oversight and ongoing support to the non-governmental organizations running the following provincially funded healthy eating programs:
BC School Fruit & Vegetable Nutritional Program is a school-based healthy eating program administered through the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. The Foundation works with local growers and distributors to bring fresh fruit and vegetable snacks every other week, 12 times in the school year, to over 90% of BC public and First Nations K-12 schools. Snacks are served during class time, creating the opportunity to engage students in discussion about fruits and vegetables and healthy eating habits. Over 566,000 servings were provided in the 2016/17 school year. The program is designed to increase students' acceptability of, exposure to, and willingness to try fruits and vegetables and awareness of local produce.
Working with communities and partners,
Farm to School BC seeks to empower and support schools in building comprehensive Farm to School programs that bring healthy, local and sustainable food into schools. These programs provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that foster food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness. Farm to School BC is administered by the Public Health Association of BC.
The Farmers' Market Nutrition Coupon Program (FMNCP) is a healthy eating initiative that supports local farmers and farmers' markets and strengthens food security across British Columbia. It is delivered through the BC Association of Farmers' Markets (BCAFM). Through this program, BCAFM partners with community organizations to provide farmers' market coupons to lower income families and seniors participating in their food literacy programs. These coupons can be spent at all BC farmers' markets members that participate in the FMNCP to purchase fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs, nuts, fish and meat.
Food Skills for Families is a hands-on curriculum based program that inspires and empowers participants to eat well while creating fast easy meals using fresh, whole ingredients. It is offered by Diabetes Canada as a six-session program and is currently delivered to the following priority populations: low income, newcomers, Punjabi, Aboriginal and active seniors. Participants gain knowledge of basic nutrition, learn how to shop and make healthy meals, snacks and beverage choices and gain confidence in the kitchen.
Informed Dining program is a nutrition information program developed by the Province of British Columbia. Its goal is to improve the health of British Columbians by helping consumers make informed food choices when eating out, thereby contributing to the promotion of healthy weights and reducing the risk of chronic disease.
Participating food service establishments (FSEs) provide their guests with nutrition information (with a focus on calorie and sodium content) for all standard menu items before or at the point of ordering. Informed Dining is mandated for all retail FSEs operating in a BC health authority owned or operated health care facility and voluntary in the private sector.
In collaboration with the BC Ministry of Health, HealthLink BC and the regional health authorities, we coordinate the development of provincial healthy eating resources for the general public and health professionals which include but are not limited to the following:
The Pediatric Nutrition Guidelines provide health professionals with evidence-based nutrition and feeding guidelines for healthy, full-term infants and children up to six-years of age. In addition to food and fluid guidelines, other important nutrition topics are covered such as developmental feeding milestones, nutrition risk indicators, parental influences on eating habits, and food allergies. This resource is intended to be a reference tool for a broad range of health care practitioners, providing easily-accessible, evidence-based, nutrition messaging to support improved child health outcomes.
In 2018, a course was developed on the Learning Hub on how to use the Guidelines to support the consistent training of health professionals across the province.
The Healthy Eating for Seniors Handbook
is a Ministry of Health resource widely used throughout the province to help seniors make decisions about healthy eating. The Handbook features practical nutrition and healthy eating information including recipes, meal planning and tips for eating to prevent or manage chronic diseases. In 2018, the handbook was updated to reflect the latest evidence and messaging around healthy eating for seniors.
The updated, English version of the handbook, as well as community presentations and a facilitator’s guide that covers key content in the handbook, are on the Ministry of Health’s website
Nutri-eSTEP and Nutri-eSCREEN® are accessible web-based electronic screening tools that are designed to provide nutrition recommendations and feedback to parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers and seniors, respectively. These tools identify things that are going well with regards to nutrition, as well as possible nutrition risk indicators based on the user's responses to a series of 17 survey questions. Nutri-eSTEP and Nutri-eSCREEN® are on HealthLink BC's Infants and Children and Seniors Healthy Eating pages, respectively.
Sip Smart! BC™ is an interactive resource launched by the BC Pediatric Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation that aims to inform families and children in grades 4 to 6 about the negative effects of consuming sugary drinks, and encourages healthy drink choices. In 2016, Sip Smart! BC™ was updated in partnership with the BC Pediatrics Society and the Ministry of Health to ensure its nutrition content was aligned with current evidence-informed practice, as well as to rejuvenate its use in grade 4 to 6 classrooms and to introduce the program to new teachers.
Obesity and other weight-related issues are shaped by social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental factors where we live, learn, work, and play. This means that our living and working conditions have a strong impact on our ability to achieve and maintain healthy weights.
A focus on weight and weight loss is not particularly effective and can, in many cases, cause harm to health.
We work with partners at PHSA and across the province to support new approaches and thinking that address the complex problems associated with obesity in ways that protect and promote mental well-being as well as physical health.
In addition, we believe that efforts to promote healthy weights and well-being should ensure that they do not inadvertently increase inequities in health or health behaviours.
Weight bias refers to negative attitudes, beliefs, assumptions and judgments toward individuals who are overweight and obese. Commonly held beliefs about obesity (such as it being solely the result of individual choices rather than being influenced by the broad socio-environmental context) can contribute to weight bias, stigma, bullying and discrimination.
Strong evidence shows that weight bias causes harm to mental health and well-being, and can lead to poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders, and suicidal thoughts and actions. Weight bias can also cause physical harm from the resulting unhealthy weight control practices, which in turn can contribute to obesity, disordered eating and eating disorders.
Given that approximately half of Canadians are overweight or obese, it is important to work towards reducing weight bias and stigma to improve mental and physical health for all.
Traditional approaches to tackling weight-related issues have not worked, and at times have resulted in unintended consequences. Improvements to physical health can be achieved through lifestyle changes (such as participating in enjoyable physical activities and healthful eating) with little or no weight loss. Shifting from weight-focused to well-being-focused approaches in practice and policy has potential to improve population health.