Good Food Policies for Health

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Background Information

Good food is vital to good health. Helping Ontarians to make healthy food choices has great potential to reduce future healthcare costs and improve our health.

  • In Ontario, only 50% of adult women and 36% of men consume the recommended daily amount of vegetables and fruit.[i]
  • Poor diet is associated with health problems that include low-weight births, high blood pressure, obesity, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer among others. [ii]
  • Up to 90% of Type 2 diabetes, 80% of heart attacks and strokes, and 33% of cancer cases[iii] could be decreased through improved nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. [iv] These diseases account for an estimated  $9.1 billion in health care spending.[v]
  • In 2010, Ontario spent 37% of its budget on health care and only 0.35% on health promotion.
  • If Ontario health care costs increase at their current rate, we will spend 80% of the provincial budget on health care by 2030.[vi]
  • The Ontario government invests only $7.40 per person per year in strategies to promote healthy behaviours, as compared to British Columbia’s $21.00 and Quebec’s $16.80.[vii]
  • 8 in 10 Ontarians want increased spending on health promotion and would vote for it in the upcoming elections.[viii]


Ontario’s health care system costs more and more each year. We cannot afford for this trend to continue. Investing in chronic disease prevention today will drastically reduce costs tomorrow. Healthy eating is key to chronic disease prevention.

Investing in the health of Ontarians today will lead to many immediate and long-term benefits including:

  • Decreasing the health-care costs incurred by the Province due to diet-related chronic diseases;
  • Increasing workplace productivity and overall economic performance by lowering rates of illness;
  • Improving children’s educational potential and prospects for succeeding in all areas of their lives.

Steps in the Right Direction:

  1. EatRight Ontario: a website that provides information on food and nutrition and enables Ontarians to ask Registered Dieticians questions about nutrition.
  2. Action Plan for Healthy Eating and Active Living that 1) acknowledges social and economic determinants of health, such as low income, 2) recognizes the need for a comprehensive approach to health promotion and chronic disease prevention, and 3) states its willingness to work together with community organizations across the province on such initiatives as promoting healthy eating.
  3. Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy: a document requiring healthier food and beverage choices to be sold in Ontario schools.

Moving Forward – Good Food Policy Ideas:

Healthy Food Choices for Ontario

1. Increase the Health Promotion Budget: Expand healthy food programming across the province by increasing the health promotion budget from 0.35% of all health care spending to 1%.

2. Support Community-Based Food Programs: Enable communities to address their own food access needs by supporting community-based food programs including community food centres, good food boxes, community gardens, food co-ops, good food vouchers, community markets, and community kitchens.

3. Make Local and Sustainable Food Accessible: Develop programs to make local and sustainable food more accessible.

Healthy Food Makes Healthy Kids

4. Fund Student Nutrition: Renew and increase the Ontario Student Nutrition Program to ensure that all children have access to a healthy breakfast and snack every day.

5. Teach Kids About Food: Integrate education about food into the Ontario curriculum at all levels.

6. Build Food Into Schools: Provide infrastructure grants for schools to enable them to build kitchens, buy food processing equipment and create school gardens.

New Opportunities

7. Find New Opportunities: Bring all ministries that relate to food together along with community members to identify opportunities to create a stronger economy and a healthier province through food. Create a Provincial Food Secretariat or Food Policy Council.


[i] Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (2007). Preventing and managing chronic disease: Ontario’s framework. Page 3.

[ii] Eat Right Ontario (2011). Children’s health—overweight and obesity. Available at:

[iii] Alberta Cancer Board (1999). Vegetable and fruit consumption in Alberta: Report on nutrition: Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours survey. Available at:

[iv] Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (2007). Preventing and managing chronic disease: Ontario’s framework. Page 3. 

[v] Cost based on cumulative data from Canadian Diabetes Association (2010). The cost of diabetes in Ontario. Heart and Stroke Foundation And Cancer Care Ontario. Ontario cancer plan 2011-2015. Available at:

[vi] TD Economics (2010). Charting a path to sustainable health care in Ontario10 proposals to restrain cost growth without compromising quality of care. Special report.

[vii] Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. What Does it Take to Make a Healthy Province? ICES. November 2009.

[viii] OCDPA “Heatlhiest Province” Survey. Ipsos Reid, February, 2011. Conducted online January 24 – February 1, 2011