Healthy eating: Increasing healthy food and beverage access and options
Healthy, safe and affordable food is a key determinant of health.1 Access and consumption of healthy foods reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases including cancer. The food we eat can increase our risk of poor health.2
Approximately 30 per cent of colorectal cancers in Alberta may be caused by an unhealthy diet.3 In 2015, approximately 8% of new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in Alberta were linked to low vegetable and fruit consumption, while approximately 10% were linked to consumption of red and processed meats.4, 5
Ways to get started
- Work with vendors to start a healthy food box program or community market where local residents can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a low cost.
- Work with partners to develop a transportation system for community members with reduced mobility or who do not have a way to get to healthy food options. This could be a volunteer grocery drop off, grocery car pools, etc.
- Work with partners to remove larger-size drink options available in cafeterias, vending machines, and at events.6-8
- Increase availability and accessibility of water re-fill stations/water at no extra cost or at a subsidized price at local events.7
- Create a project to increase healthy food and beverage options offered in public vending machines and at events, such as in libraries, recreation centres and at community celebrations.7
- Make healthy food and beverage options available at business or in easy-to-see locations and unhealthy options in locations that are less visible.
- Work with local municipalities to develop a policy to increase healthy food and beverage options offered at public events in the community.7
- Support municipalities to develop zoning bylaws that regulate grocery stores and fast food restaurants.
- For schools, include students and family members from the start to promote healthy food environments in the school.
Amplify your impact
For further action related to promoting healthy eating in your community see
- Increasing affordable options for healthy eating strategy
- Protecting and supporting breast feeding strategy
- Awareness and education strategy.
Multi-component community-wide interventions that increase healthy eating in your community will have greater impact than implementing single one-off strategies. Multi-component interventions may include policies that increase the availability, affordability and access to healthy food and beverage options.
Evaluation measures the impact of all the hard work that went into developing a community initiative. Evaluating impact examines:
- What you expect to learn or change
- What you measure and report
- How to measure impact
What you expect to learn about increasing healthy food and beverage access and options may include:
- Learning that the strategy was implemented as planned
- Increased visibility of healthy food and beverage options
- Increased support or programs to access healthy food and beverage options
- New or revised policies or by-laws related to food access and/or healthy options
References- Increasing Healthy Food options
- Jeffery RW, French SA, Raether C, Baxter JE. An environmental intervention to increase fruit and salad purchases in a cafeteria. Preventative medicine. 1994;23(6):788-792.
- Jordan KC, Erickson ED, Cox R, et al. Evaluation of the Gold Medal Schools program. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(11):1916-1920.
- Blanck HM, Kim SA. Creating Supportive Nutrition Environments for Population Health Impact and Health Equity: An Overview of the Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network's Efforts. 2012;43:S85-S90.
- Ruan Y, Poirier AE, Hebert LA, Grevers X, Walter SD, Villeneuve PJ, Brenner DR, Friedenreich CM. Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to red and processed meat consumption in Canada. Preventive Medicine. 2019;122:31-9.
- Poirier AE, Ruan Y, Hebert LA, Grevers X, Walter SD, Villeneuve PJ, Brenner DR, Friedenreich CM. Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to low fruit and vegetable consumption in Canada. Preventive Medicine. 2019;122:20-30.
- Roy, R, kelly,B, Rangan, A, Allman-Farinelli, M. Food Environment Intervientions to Improve the Dietary Behavior of Young Adults in Tertiary Education Settings: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2015;115(10):1681.e1.doi:10.1016/J.jand.2015.06.380.
- Ottem A. Healthy eating and food security: promising strategies for BC. Toronto (ON): Dietitians of Canada; 2010. Available from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/Healthy-Eating-and-Food-Security-Strategies-BC.aspx
- National Guideline Clearing House. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2012. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22237782