Health topic: Nutrition Health Promotion

Go beyond food

What's it about?

This strategy uses food-free alternatives to transform school traditions involving unhealthy food, like hot dog lunches, candy rewards, or bake sale fundraisers. It encourages us to creatively re-shape classroom celebrations and promote a healthy school culture. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to kick-start this strategy. Many schools and school authorities now restrict sharing food brought from home to help limit the spread of COVID-19 at school. There are other benefits to going food-free at school too. By letting go of food-based school traditions, you can make it easier for students with food allergies, religious or cultural food restrictions, and those facing financial hardship to participate fully in classroom and school experiences. 


What's involved?

Go beyond food by offering alternatives in situations where food may be offered at school. Be sure to follow health measures in schools like physical distancing, hand hygiene, and mask-wearing.


Celebrate in creative ways

Get creative when it comes to food-free theme days, cultural events, and class milestones. Try music, art, physical activity, and other relationship-building activities. Here are some great alternatives for food-free seasonal celebrations: 

  • Story-writing activities for Halloween
  • Traditional games or dances to mark significant cultural dates
  • Friendly neighbourhood snow-shoveling during winter months
  • Random acts of kindness for Valentine’s Day
  • Outdoor active experiences in spring, like track and field events or community walks


Try non-food rewards

If you use rewards to recognize student achievement, offer non-food options like:

  • Words of praise and encouragement
  • Certificates or awards of recognition
  • Small non-food items, like stickers, stamps, erasers
  • Extra time outside to socialize, play a game, or try a sport
  • Leadership opportunities in the classroom or school


Fundraise the healthy way

Fundraise for school-based activities or charitable causes without resorting to sales of unhealthy foods. Instead try:

  • Book fairs or student art auctions
  • Pledge-based activities like read-a-thons or walk-and-wheel-a-thons
  • Sales of non-food products like plants and flowers, coupon books, gift cards, or school spirit items (like school water bottles, reusable lunch bags, or sport gear) 


How it connects

Going beyond food reinforces healthy eating across many components of the comprehensive school health framework. 

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