Addressing Food Marketing in Schools

Posted in: Blogs, Healthy Eating

Food marketing that targets children and youth is an issue across Canada. Food marketing can be found on TV, online, in newspapers and magazines – and in our schools. In fact, most schools in Canada have at least one type of food marketing present.

What is food marketing?

Food marketing is “advertising that promotes the sale of certain food or food products.” Here are some examples of different types of food marketing you might find in your school:

  • Advertisements on posters, equipment, uniforms or vending machines
  • Product sales (including fundraising) of brand name foods that are less healthy (e.g. chocolates, pizza etc.)
  • Sponsored events and educational materials

Why do we need to address food marketing in schools?

Healthy eating is important for students because they are still growing and developing. Most marketing promotes foods that have more salt, sugar and saturated fat than students need in their diets. Addressing food marketing in schools is especially important because children and youth are more easily influenced by advertising. This along with children spending a lot of time in school, increases the likelihood that students’ food preferences and intake will be negatively affected by marketing. The habits that students create when they are young are likely to last into adulthood. Therefore, students’ exposure to food marketing should be limited whenever possible.

What can you do?

The following table describes some ideas for how you can start to improve your school eating environment – start with the short term “Quick Wins” and work towards the longer term goal of having policies that support healthy eating environments!

Quick Wins
Medium Term
  • Fund raise through activities that don’t involve food, or choose healthier food options. For ideas, check out the Alberta Health Services Healthy Fundraising resource
  • Increase sales of healthy foods by pricing them lower than less-healthy options
  • Ask your vending machine operators to replace images of sugar-sweetened beverages with images of water or plain milk on vending machines
  • Move vending machines with healthy choices to high traffic areas, and vending machines with fewer healthy choices to lower traffic areas, alternatively stock healthy choices at eye level and less healthy options at the bottom of vending machines.
Long Term
  • Develop policies that support healthy eating environments, and limit marketing from food and beverage companies

For more information on marketing healthy food choices and healthy eating environments, visit the Alberta Health Services Create a Healthy Eating Environment page or Canada’s Food Guide Be Aware of Food Marketing page. If you have questions or need more information contact your local public health dietitian.

Ashley Bray is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services and can be reached at

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