Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools (2013 Edition)

View the complete Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools in English.

Frequently Asked Questions

What resources are available to support the implementation of the Guidelines?
  • The Brand Name Food List (BNFL) is a tool to help British Columbians choose prepackaged food and beverages that meet the nutrition standards for schools and public buildings. The BNFL scores food and beverages based on the Guidelines for Food and Beverages Sales in BC Schools and the Nutritional Guidelines for Vending Machines in B.C. Public Buildings.

  • Bake Better Bites! Recipes and Tips for Healthier Baked Goods (PDF 2.43 MB) is helpful for parents, community volunteers, school staff and students to use when preparing baked goods for sale. It contains recipes that meet healthy eating guidelines.

  • Tips and Recipes for Quantity Cooking: Nourishing Minds and Bodies (PDF 6.87 MB) is helpful for people who prepare meals and snacks for students in schools. It includes tips on how to choose healthy recipes, substitutions to make favourite recipes healthier and a selection of recipes that meet healthy eating guidelines.

  • Healthy Fundraising for Schools (PDF 2.03 MB) provides healthy fundraising ideas that meet the Guidelines for Food and Beverages Sales in BC Schools and can be used by teachers, administrators, parents and students.

  • Action Schools! BC provides refresher workshops on the Guidelines for teachers (school staff and food service staff can also attend) including an orientation to the new Guidelines as well as the resources for implementation. Teachers can email info@actionschoolsbc.ca or call 1-800-565-7727 (604-738-2468) to arrange a workshop.

  • HealthLink BC is available to provide support and answer any of your questions regarding the Guidelines and their implementation. Contact a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC by dialing 8-1-1 or Email a HealthLink BC Dietitian.

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What are the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools?
The Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools ("the Guidelines") define the minimum nutrition standard that schools are required to use to determine what food and beverages can be sold to students. The Guidelines support healthy eating at school by increasing access to healthy choices while limiting access to products high in sodium, sugar and fat.

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How were the 2013 Guidelines developed?
The Guidelines were first published in 2005 and mandated for all public schools in 2008. They were developed using the best nutrition information available and the most current national and provincial healthy eating recommendations and regulations. Revisions to the Guidelines reflect current nutrition recommendations, product availability and information gathered through consultations with people who use the Guidelines including school administrators, parents, teachers, food service staff, community nutritionists and the food and beverage industry.

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Are the Guidelines enforced?
The Guidelines are a mandated policy that all school districts are required to implement as part of the Government's directive to ensure unhealthy food and beverages are not sold in schools. Questions about the implementation of the Guidelines within a particular school district should be directed to the district's office.

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Where do the Guidelines apply?
Schools must apply the Guidelines to all food or beverages sold to students in B.C. public schools and at all school-sanctioned events.

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Do the Guidelines apply to food and beverages brought from home by students?
No, the Guidelines only apply to food and beverages that are sold to students. They do not apply to food and beverage items that students bring from home.

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Do the Guidelines apply to lunches organized by parent groups?
Yes, unless the lunches are provided free of charge. The Guidelines apply to any food or beverages sold to students within the school grounds and at school-organized events off the school grounds.

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Do First Nations or independent schools need to use the Guidelines?
The Guidelines are only mandated for public schools; however First Nations and independent schools are encouraged to apply the Guidelines to food and beverages sold to their students.

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Why are there nutrition guidelines for schools?
Through meal programs, cafeterias, vending machines, fundraisers and more, schools provide many of the meals, snacks and beverages students consume in a day. Healthy eating at school supports learning, physical and mental growth and development, and the adoption of healthy skills and choices. The Guidelines are part of a broader healthy schools approach that promotes healthy choices both inside and outside of the classroom.

Research shows that consumption of healthy food and beverages:
  • Provides students with fuel for optimal growth and nutrients for strong bones, teeth and muscles
  • Helps students' brains develop
  • Improves school performance, learning ability, attention span and behaviour
  • Supplies energy for daily activity
  • Reduces the risk of getting sick now and developing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life
  • Sets the foundation for healthy eating behaviours as adults

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What is Healthy Eating?
Whenever possible, schools should offer whole and minimally processed food more often than prepackaged food, which can be higher in sodium, sugar or fat. Offering a variety of food from all four food groups at breakfast and lunch, and from at least two food groups at snacks is another way of supporting healthy eating while at school.

To read more about healthy eating, see The Meaning of Healthy Eating in British Columbia.

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Do the Guidelines restrict the sale of foods with common food allergens like peanuts and tree nuts?
No. The Guidelines are not designed to address food allergy concerns in schools.

Under BC's Anaphylaxis Protection Order (2007), all school districts are required to develop and implement anaphylaxis policies that meet rigorous provincial standards outlined in the Anaphylactic and Child Safety Framework. Policies and procedures must be made publicly available.

If you have concerns related to anaphylaxis management in schools, speak with the school principal or the district superintendent.

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How do schools know if freshly made food or beverages meet the Guidelines?
Schools can use the Checklist (found in the Guidelines) to score freshly made food or beverages, or select pre-scored recipes from Bake Better Bites (PDF 2.43 MB) or Tips and Recipes for Quantity Cooking (PDF 6.87 MB). The Checklist scores freshly made food and beverages as "Sell" or "Do Not Sell" based on the nutrient content and ingredients in each recipe.

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How do schools know if prepackaged food or beverages meet the Guidelines?
Prepackaged food and beverages labelled with an ingredient list and Nutrition Facts table are scored using the Nutrient Criteria. The user scores the product by comparing the information on the food label with the Nutrient Criteria for the appropriate food category. Products are scored as "Sell Most", "Sell Sometimes" and "Do Not Sell". At least 50% of choices should score as "Sell Most", and the remainder should score as "Sell Sometimes". Schools can also use the Brand Name Food List to find pre-scored products that meet the Nutrient Criteria.

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How do I apply the "50% Sell Most" rule for prepackaged food and beverages?
The Guidelines require that at least 50% of prepackaged food and beverages sold to students in each food venue score as "Sell Most". The remainder should score as "Sell Sometimes". Food and beverages in the "Sell Most" category are healthier options. They tend to be higher in essential nutrients and lower in sodium, sugar and fat. Food and beverages that score as "Do Not Sell" are not to be sold to students.

This rule applies to each food and beverage outlet (e.g. vending machines, school store, cafeteria, PAC lunches etc). This also applies to food and beverages separately. For example, any single vending machine containing both food and beverages must stock at least 50% "Sell Most" food and up to 50% "Sell Sometimes" food AND at least 50% "Sell Most" beverages and up to 50% "Sell Sometimes" beverages. A cafeteria at the same school would also need to stock at least 50% "Sell Most" food and up to 50% "Sell Sometimes" food AND at least 50% "Sell Most" beverages and up to 50% "Sell Sometimes" beverages.

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How can we make changes when we have a contract with a vendor?
Vendors have a wide selection of beverages and snacks in their inventory including some healthier as well as less healthy choices. The Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association is encouraging its members to work within their contracts to provide healthier choices for schools.

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What's new in the 2013 edition of the Guidelines?
Revisions to the Guidelines reflect current nutrition recommendations, product availability and information gathered through consultations with people who use the Guidelines. There is new Nutrient Criteria, a Checklist to enable schools to score freshly made food, fact sheets, instructional videos and optional policies to support healthy eating. Refer to Appendix A in the Guidelines for a detailed list of "Highlights of Nutrient Criteria Changes in 2013".

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Last updated: November 2013

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