Eat Smart!® Schools

Organization Sponsor: Nutrition Resource Centre

Organization Partner: Ontario Public Health Association


Program Description

Eat Smart! is an Ontario Public Health program with a goal to enhance people’s health by promoting healthy eating in smoke-free places and preventing food-borne illness. Research shows that schools provide an ideal opportunity to reach children and adolescents with messages and supports to improve their overall eating habits. There are two ways to search for an Eat Smart!® school in your area:

* By Map
* By Keyword or Health District

Through its "Award of Excellence", the Eat Smart!® School Program offers recognition to Ontario schools that meet exceptional standards in nutrition, food safety, and supporting a smoke-free environment by qualifying the school on a set of three (3) standards:

* Nutrition - the school cafeteria must provide a variety of healthier foods including whole grain choices, vegetables and fruit, and lower-fat options and substitutions;
* Food Safety - the school cafeteria must have an excellent track record in food safety based on the requirements of Ontario’s Food Premises Regulation and at least one full-time kitchen employee certified in safe food handling; and
* 100% smoke-free environment - the school must be in compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (2005).

Are you a school that is interested in applying for the Eat Smart!® program? To apply, choose the Health District that your organization is located within.

Eat Smart!® is an Award of Excellence program that recognizes Ontario schools, workplaces and recreation centres for providing healthier environments to their customers. Your local Public Health Unit, along with the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, award Eat Smart!® locations that provides:
* Eat Smart!® School Program
* Eat Smart!® Workplace Program
* Eat Smart!® Recreation Centre Program

This program grew out of an integrated, provincially supported award program for restaurants started in 1997 called Eat Smart! The restaurant program gained popularity very quickly and, as a result, it was introduced into schools and cafeterias. For 12 years, this program provided support for a healthier environment. In 2009, the provincial support for Eat Smart! Ontario’s Healthy Restaurant Program was discontinued. It is survived by its siblings Eat Smart for Schools and Eat Smart! for Workplace Cafeterias. An outcome evaluation was never conducted for The Eat Smart! restaurant program; funding constraints did not make this critical process possible.

Program Approximate Cost: 

Free for participants

Funding Sources: 

An initiative of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), and is run by local public health units across Ontario.This program is financed by the Government of Ontario.

Strategies For Sustainability: 

Eat Smart!® is implemented locally by Ontario public health units and their community partners. Interested food premises apply to the program and are assessed by the public health unit to determine eligibility. Food premises that meet the three program standards receive the Eat Smart!® Award of Excellence and are listed on the Eat Smart!® website. Additional promotions are determined locally.

Impact Of Program: 

Over the last 10 years, The Eat Smart Program has significantly changed the community awareness standards and practice of healthy eating in restaurants, schools, recreation centres, and workplaces.

Evaluation Tools: 

The Eat Smart! Recreation Centre Program Pilot Project (‘the ES! Recreation Centre Pilot’) took place between January and June 2008. The following health units participated in the project:
• Eastern Ontario Health Unit • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit • Halton Region Health Department • Ottawa Public Health • Peel Public Health • Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Key Elements Towards Success: 

Program promotion is key and the following list of suggestions have proven successful:
1. Take a population based approach;
2. Be a program (as defined above) and not a resource;
3. Focus on primary prevention of chronic diseases;
4. Be grounded in sound behavior change theory;
5. Address common and relevant population nutritional needs, such as those included in Ontario’s Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines for Public Health;
6. Address an approach beyond awareness-raising;
7. Do not focus on prenatal nutrition, food security, curriculum based school programs, those reviewed by Cancer Care Ontario in their “Best Practices” project, and/or food safety;
8. Have a primary emphasis on nutrition if they are multiple risk factor programs;
9. Do not act as a private sector intervention; and,
10. Have sufficient supporting materials available to provide adequate information for review.

Eat Smart!® is a program supported by the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC), an initiative of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA). Eat Smart! is a good example of integrated programming. It combines elements of food safety, healthy eating, and smoke-free environments.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

One major limitation was inadequate funding for a province-wide social marketing campaign to raise public awareness about the program. Public health units also struggled with resources for implementation.

Length and Stage of Project: 

Initiated in 1997

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