Diabetes Canada welcomes the recent news from the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development that it has enhanced Policy 711, which sets the minimum requirements for building a healthier food environment in public schools. The recently updated policy aims to create a more pleasant, positive setting for students and staff to eat.
“Diabetes Canada commends the Government of New Brunswick for its leadership in putting the health of kids first through amendments to its policy on the school food environment,” says Dr. Jan Hux, president of Diabetes Canada. “This policy recognizes the fact that healthy eating during childhood and adolescence promotes optimal health and development. It emphasizes that all members of the school community have a role to play in supporting healthy habits and behaviours.”
Childhood obesity rates across Canada have almost tripled in the last 30 years, which have contributed to the development of type 2 diabetes in children, a disease more commonly diagnosed in adulthood. In New Brunswick, the diabetes prevalence rate is one of the highest in the country at 12.1%, and more than a third of children are living with overweight or obesity. Healthy schools policies will go a long way in helping to address some of the factors that augment the risk of chronic disease development, including type 2 diabetes, in increasingly younger populations.
Policy 711 highlights the importance of:
- offering affordable, minimally processed, well-balanced meals and snacks in schools
- ensuring access to free and subsidized food programs in ways that minimize stigmatization
- avoiding fundraisers and food incentives that are unhealthy
- enhancing food skills and knowledge
- making traditional First Nations foods available in school celebrations and ceremonies
Students have the right to play and learn in an environment that promotes and supports healthy choices. Schools across the country should be safe spaces that provide easy access to nutritious food and beverages and are free from the influence of the marketing of items that are high in nutrients of concern. Diabetes Canada applauds the Government of New Brunswick for its leadership on this issue and will continue to advocate for children in other provinces to benefit from similar healthy school environment policies.