An initiative sponsored by the Association pour la santé publique du Québec

Follow Us
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter RSS
Follow Us
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter RSS

Translation of this website has been made possible through financial support from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Health Canada.

The views expressed herein represent the views of the Weight Coalition and do not necessarily represent the views of the project funders.


Existing Policies and Initiatives

Quebec has adopted food policies to ensure the quality of the food options in public institutions under its jurisdiction.

Elementary and secondary schools

In September 2007, the Quebec Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport (MELS) presented a framework policy on healthy eating and active living titled Going the Healthy Route at School. The document formally recognized the importance of healthy eating for young people and the exemplary role that schools must play in this regard.

The implementation of this framework policy came with $11 million total in initial financial support for all schools, including $8 million for going the healthy route where food is concerned. As it happens, at time of implementing the policy, Quebec had 2,770 schools in its school boards, 39 government schools, and 354 private schools for a total of 3,163 institutions. Consequently, in principle, each institution had access to $2,529 for the purpose of implementing the food policy.

Assessment of the implementation of this framework policy

An implementation assessment [1] conducted in 2009 by way of a web survey involving 600 schools revealed, notably, that:

  • 98% of main food services offered meals comprising the four food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.
  • 96% of the cafeterias offered at least one vegetable side dish with a main meal.
  • 95% of the schools preferred methods of cooking that added little or no fat to foods and, consequently, had taken French fries off the menu.
  • 90% of the schools offered no food whose top ingredient was sugar.
  • 80% of the schools had eliminated all fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Regarding vending machines, 84% of the schools had removed food products whose top ingredient was sugar, but sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages could still be found in half the schools.
  • Only 38% of the schools strove to make mealtime an enjoyable part of the school day by, among other things, ensuring that the spaces where students ate were appealing and convivial.

Other assessments based on visits to elementary and secondary schools revealed, also, that:

  • In elementary schools (2008-2009) [2]:
    • From 6% [1] to 11% of the schools still offered sugar-sweetened beverages.
    • 36% of the schools had no water fountain in or near their eating spaces.
    • 58% of the schools had consulted their students when planning their menu in order to adapt it so as to render it more appealing to young people.
    • 17% of the students ate lunch in the school gymnasium, which aside from not being a convivial space for eating, was unavailable during the lunch break for the students to engage in physical activity.
  • In secondary schools (2008-2009):
    • 71% of the food services offered foods high in added sugar [3].
    • From 41% [1] to 68% [3] of the schools still offered sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g., iced tea, sports drinks, fruit punch, fruit cocktail, hot chocolate) or beverages containing sugar substitutes in their main food services.
    • Regarding vending machines, sugar-sweetened beverages or beverages containing sugar substitutes were sold in 53% [1] to 77% [3] of cases. Snack foods high in fat and sweet treats were also present in many places.
    • From 23% [4] to 28% [3] of the schools had no water fountain in or near their eating spaces.
    • Only 1 out of 10 schools had a sufficient number of microwave ovens available [3].
    • 47% of the schools had consulted their students on the proposed menu in order to adapt it more to the tastes of young people [3].
  • Pre-packaged products offered to students are rarely good or excellent options from a nutritional point of view [4].

In addition to ensuring coherence with the principles of healthy eating taught in class, school food policies are promising in that they contribute to the development of healthy eating habits at an early age–habits that could be maintained over the long term.

Colleges and universities

Unlike elementary and secondary schools, post-secondary institutions, such as colleges and universities, enjoy administrative autonomy. Nevertheless, the MELS proposed a guide tailored to their needs in order to encourage them to go the healthy route as well: Going the Healthy Route in Postsecondary Institution.

Health and social services institutions

In July 2009, the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services launched the reference guide titled Miser sur une saine alimentation : une question de qualité (Targeting healthy eating: a question of quality). The purpose of this document was to support the institutions of the health and social services system in adopting a food policy to eliminate junk food from their menus and propose healthier choices to their different service-user groups. Improving the food options in these institutions will help achieve greater coherence with their role as health promoters.

The institutions had until March 31, 2013, to complete implementation of their food policy. No official assessment of this initiative is yet available.


[1] Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (2012). Bilan de mise en œuvre de la politique-cadre Pour un virage santé à l’école. Repéré le 15 septembre 2012.

[2] Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2012). Portrait de l’environnement alimentaire dans les écoles primaires du Québec. Repéré le 26 octobre 2012.

[3] Institut national de santé publique du Québec (2013). Portrait de l’environnement alimentaire dans les écoles secondaires du Québec. Repéré le 5 avril 2013.

[4] Morin, P., Demers, K. et Grand’Maison, S. (2012). Enquête sur l’offre alimentaire et d’activité physique dans les écoles du Québec : Principaux constats à l’égard de la Politique-cadre « Pour un virage
santé ». Faculté d’éducation physique et sportive. Université de Sherbrooke. 40 pages.