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Promoting safe and nutritious food selection, preparation and storage practices.

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Nutrition Resource Centre

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Raising the Bar for the Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program

Raising the Bar for the Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program
September 9, 2016
Do you remember the old milk or breakfast programs in elementary or high schools?  Beginning as early as the 1980s, community organizations in Ontario began supporting breakfast, lunch, and snack programs to help provide children and youth with nutritious food in school.
 
Well, these programs, known as Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs) have evolved and are stronger than ever.  Along with community organizations, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) provide funding to over 4,600 programs across Ontario serving approximately 850,000 children and youth.  These programs just don’t “feed” children; rather they support learning and healthy development through safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods.  The SNP Nutrition Guidelines, initially implemented in 2008, were developed to assist these programs with selecting the most nutritious foods in today’s challenging food environment. 
 
Recently, the NRC and the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health worked together to update the Nutrition Guidelines for Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program to incorporate current scientific evidence and best practices related to healthy eating for children and youth. The process included convening a review committee of experts; completing a literature review and environmental scan, conducting interviews; and completing grocery store surveys across Ontario to confirm that recommended foods are available and affordable.
 
The guidelines are grounded on the principle that programs should strive to provide the most healthful foods possible to children and youth participating in the program.  Updates to the refreshed SNP Nutrition Guidelines include:
  • An emphasis on whole and minimally processed foods where possible;
  • Clearer information about serving sizes; and
  • Updated practical tips and resources for program providers related to healthy eating, food safety, and menu planning. 
Program volunteers will also have access to a more user-friendly, portable pocket guide that provides helpful tips to support menu planning and shopping, and summarizes the food selection criteria. 
 
The new guidelines and pocket guide are now available electronically in English and French.  A webinar video about the updated guidelines and rationale for the changes is available for online viewing here.
 
The NRC is delighted to be involved in this important work, and we thank everyone who contributed to updating the SNP Nutrition Guidelines.
 
If you have questions or comments about the guidelines, please send an email to onsnpguidelines@ontario.ca. If you are looking for additional resources and tools to support the SNP in your community, check out the NRC Navigator! Can’t find what you are looking for or need help with developing a new resource? Contact us!