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Resources Backgrounder

Best Practices in Healthy Eating Programs for Children


About this resource

This backgrounder provides an overview of the latest research on the best practices in healthy eating programming for this age group.

The issues: Current context

Children and youth in Canada are increasingly are at risk of developing diet-related illnesses, influenced by increased availability of processed foods, increased exposure to unhealthy food advertising, and decreased opportunities to develop and practice food skills.

Children and youth living in low-income households are more likely to experience diet-related health problems as a result of systemic health inequities, and are also less likely to participate in health programs. Research also suggests that children from lower-income households may have lower levels of nutrition knowledge and lower intake of healthy foods.

Why it matters

Unhealthy eating habits put children a greater risk for poor development, lower academic achievement, and physical and mental health issues in adolescence and later in life. Having a poor diet is a key driver of childhood obesity and its associated health risks, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and disability. Childhood obesity rates have increased tenfold in the past 40 years worldwide, and affects 13% of children in Canada.

What we do about it

Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations offer hands-on cooking and gardening programs that help children and youth gain food skills and knowledge, and build healthy eating habits. These programs empower young people and their families to take as much control over their personal health and nutrition as possible within the context of their circumstances.

Research shows that community-based food programs that offer hands-on food education and skill building are effective interventions for children, youth, and their families. Such programs have been found to build food literacy, combat youth obesity, and improve eating habits, lowering the risk for health issues later in life.
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