Healthy Eating & Food Security Action Guide
The actions recommended in the Healthy Eating & Food Security action guide are compiled from evidence-based best practice and reflect promising innovations that are showing results in Canadian communities.
The guide points out that only 41% of British Columbians eat the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and that there is evidence to show that even a one-serving-per-day increase is linked to a 20% reduction in chronic-disease-related mortality.
The guide recognizes that communities face a range of issues in achieving food security and healthy eating for their community members, including:
- Restricted access to healthy foods due to geographic transportation barriers
- Increased availability of non-nutritious food due to high density or proximity to fast-food outlets and convenience stores
- Unhealthy food marketing practices and tactics that target children (e.g. billboards, sponsorship in public buildings or events)
The guide also recognizes that, while healthy eating and food security at a population level is a shared responsibility of all levels of government across multiple sectors, local governments “are uniquely positioned to be able to identify and respond to many needs within their community.”
The guide gives a number of suggestions of planning, policy, programming and partnership options available to local governments, along with examples of actions already taken by BC communities.
- Develop a working group (e.g. food policy council)
- Conduct a community food assessment
- Plan and assess public transportation, social housing, and neighbourhood development to support citizens to access healthy food sources like grocery stores and local food markets
- Incorporate local opportunities into official community plans and municipal strategies to set priorities and guide decisions around food planning and policy
- Designate areas for urban community gardens, edible landscapes, and local food markets
- Create social eating spaces in public places, including recreation centres, city plazas and parks
- Support local agriculture
- Promote permits and incentives for healthy food retailers, especially in underserved neighbourhoods
- Increase access to and beautify water fountains/hydration stations in public spaces and buildings to promote drinking water and reduce sugary drink consumption
- Adopt and promote healthy food and beverage consumption and sales’ policies for recreation centres and public buildings
- Pass or amend policies restricting food and beverage marketing in all settings frequented by children
- Adopt and promote workplace or organizational healthy eating policies
- Support local, healthy, and safe food production and distribution through procurement policies, bylaws and permits for farm-gate sales and small-scale urban agriculture
- Offer programs that build food skills and knowledge (e.g. cooking workshops, community kitchens, community gardens, coupon programs)
- Support the development of farm-to-school and farm-to-cafeteria programs
- Facilitate the distribution and storage of healthy local foods (e.g. The Good Food Box, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) and community storage facilities
- Build relationships with health authority representatives that focus on healthy eating and food security
- Identify and engage with other organizations (e.g. local food security groups or networks, farmers’ associations, schools, faith-based agencies) that work on food security and healthy eating programs to share knowledge, skills, and relationships.
The guide also provides an organizational checklist for local governments and community organizations. Do we:
- Support healthy food policies that make the healthy choice the easy choice?
- Support activities or have policies that increase access to healthy foods, especially for vulnerable community members?
- Support urban farms, local food markets, community and school gardens, and food security programs?
- Use partnerships and our own capacities to promote active living and healthy eating messaging?
Finally, the guide provides case studies and resource lists to assist in discussion and development of actions to improve healthy eating and food security in local communities.