Canada's food guide

Healthy eating in the community

The foods available in your community can impact your food choices. Learn how to find, choose and promote healthy foods and drinks in your community.

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Having healthy food choices in your community matters

Community spaces are important gathering places. They provide a safe space for residents to play, learn and participate in activities. Some community land may also provide a place to grow or harvest food. These spaces include:

  • parks
  • gardens
  • libraries
  • playgrounds
  • recreation centres
  • community centres

Food and drinks are often offered or sold in these places which can have an impact on the health of the residents.

Community spaces can shape peoples’ eating habits positively by:

  • limiting less healthy choices
  • having healthy options readily available

It’s important to have healthy food choices available no matter where you are, as these choices can shape your eating pattern.

How to make healthy choices in your community

There are many strategies you can use to help you make healthy choices in your community.

Pack your own food

Pack your own meal or snacks to have available if you get hungry. That way you know you’ll have something healthy to eat. It can also help you cut down on the chances of having to buy less healthy food.

Always carry a reusable water bottle with you in case you get thirsty.

Think ahead

If it’s not possible to bring your own food, think ahead to where you will be. Find out what healthy food options are available where you are going, or close by. This can help prevent you from having to choose meals or snacks that can be less healthy out of convenience.

Cut down on waste

Buying and eating food outside the home can add a lot of extra waste, especially from food packaging and eating utensils. If you know you’ll be eating a meal think about what you can bring to cut down on waste. Consider packing:

  • cloth napkins
  • reusable cutlery
  • a reusable water bottle
  • a travel mug for coffee or tea
  • any food that you have made in reusable containers
  • reusable grocery shopping bags for any foods you purchase to take home

Explore places you can grow or harvest your own food

Growing or harvesting your own food can be a great way to enjoy healthy, in-season options. Depending on where you live, you may be able to:

  • pick fruit
  • hunt, fish or trap
  • start or join a community garden

Find out about community programs

Many communities have programs that offer healthy foods for free or at affordable prices.

There may also be programs in your community that focus on teaching food skills.

Your local community centre can be a good place to learn about the programs that are available.

Creating an environment that supports healthy eating habits

Everyone can play a role in creating a healthy food environment in their community.

As a community member you can:

  • Ask for healthy foods to be sold or served at community events or spaces like your local recreation centre or at community fairs.
    • This lets those who buy the food know that there is an interest in healthy options.
  • Find out about organizations and associations you can join that run events, programs or oversee places where food is sold.
    • Talk with other members about opportunities to offer healthier food and drink options. Share your ideas on how to include healthy choices.

If you are responsible for food at community events or spaces:

  • make water easily available and free of charge
  • make sure healthy foods are available and widely promoted
  • consider reducing the amount of highly processed foods or sugary drinks offered
  • be aware that signage that promotes food or drinks can infuence food choices
    • think about the images on drink machines or the billboards in community centre arenas

Be a part of community planning discussions. Well planned communities make it easier and more convenient for people to make healthy food choices. There are many ways a community can support healthy eating such as:

  • community gardens
  • harvesting programs
  • healthy food pantries
  • affordable cooking and food preparation classes
  • healthy eating policies for community spaces and events
  • grocery stores or markets accessible by walking or public transportation

Visit the Food guide for life for tips to:

  • Choose a healthy drink
  • Make easy lunches

Further Reading

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