Healthy Eating & Food Security

Credit: Geoff Peters

What is this issue about?

Food security at the community level is when all citizens obtain a safe, personally acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainable food system1 that maximizes healthy choices, community self-reliance, and equal access for everyone. Food security is vital to the health and well-being of a communityi and is the foundation for healthy eating.

Healthy eating promotes and supports social, physical, and mental well-being at all ages and stages of life. It contributes to the overall health of individuals, families, and communities.

Download the Healthy Eating & Food Security Action Guide here.

Why is this important for health, well-being and healthy communities?

We know that eating enough servings of vegetables and fruit is critical to good health; however, only 41% of British Columbians eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.ii There is evidence to show that even a one-serving-per-day increase is linked to a 20% reduction in chronic disease related mortality.iii

Food security and healthy eating are important to communities for a variety of reasons:

  • Increasing access to healthy food corresponds to the likelihood of healthier eating, healthier weights, and reduced rates of diabetes.iv
  • Community members need healthy foods to be readily available and affordable, as well as the skills and knowledge to make sound food choices.
  • Support for local food production may increase the availability of healthy and fresh food, including fruits and vegetables, in communities while supporting local economies.
  • The food environment in communities affects the availability and accessibility of healthy food. For example, some communities have restricted access to healthy foods due to geographic transportation barriers. Others have increased availability of non-nutritious foods such as fast food outlets, convenience stores, and exposure to unhealthy food marketing.

Credit: Picture BC

Why does healthy eating and food security matter for B.C. local governments?

Many B.C. local governments are already leaders in supporting healthy eating and food security, and have integrated actions into their community plans, policies, programs, and partnerships.

With local government support, communities can identify opportunities to increase access to healthy food, create healthy eating environments, build food security, and support local food systems. This may include activities such as adopting and implementing healthy food guidelines, creating spaces for community and school gardens, and encouraging and providing incentives for food outlets that make nutritious foods readily available, such as farmers’ markets and grocery stores.

Take Action

Policy and Planning

Create a food framework such as a food plan, charter, or municipal food policy to set priorities and guide decisions around food policy.

Five municipalities, two school districts, the Squamish Nation and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation officially signed the North Shore Food Charter.

Designate areas for community gardens, farmers’ markets, or pocket markets, and if applicable, offer access to under-utilized local government properties.

Support local agriculture by protecting the existing Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), or even adding land to this reserve, where appropriate.

Adopt and promote healthy food and beverage sale policies for recreation centres, public buildings, and vending machines using Stay Active Eat Healthy resources and the Nutritional Guidelines for Vending Machines in B.C. Public Buildings.

Pass or amend policies restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing in all settings frequented by children, such as libraries, recreation centres, and parks.

Support local, healthy, and safe food production and distribution through procurement policies, permits for farm-gate sales, small-scale agriculture (e.g. large gardens, chickens, or beekeeping on residential property), and opportunities for community greenhouses and food storage facilities.

Support healthy food sales through permits, support, and/or incentives for retailers such as markets, grocery stores, mobile vendors, or restaurants, especially in underserved neighbourhoods.v


Create a working group such as a food table or food policy council with multiple stakeholders in the community food system. This working group can help identify community needs and priorities, and build a broader understanding of food systems and healthy eating issues useful for informing food policies.

The Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiative Roundtable (CR-FAIR) is a coalition of organizations working to strengthen regional food security and the local food system, from farm gate to dinner plate.

Conduct a community food assessment – take stock of food-related activities, resources, and assets in the community and identify gaps and needs, in particular those for vulnerable

Plan and assess public transportation systems to ensure all citizens are able to access healthy food sources like grocery stores and farmers markets.vii

Partnerships and Programs

Build relationships with your health authority representatives that focus on healthy eating and food security. Health authorities can help to identify and maximize strategies and activities in your community.

Identify and engage with local non-profit organizations who work on food security and healthy eating programs such as education and events, community gardens, and food access programs. Often non-profit organizations have the knowledge, relationships, and skills to lead these programs on the ground.

Vancouver's YWCA's rooftop garden project yields more than 1,000 lbs of fresh fruit and veggies each year. The produce is used to feed families in need. 

Build partnerships with local farmers and farmer organizations. They are a critical component of the local food system and when working in partnership, innovative solutions can be developed to address local food needs.

Creston's Fields Forward initiative is a partnership program that aims to boost economic development in the agri-food sector and improve local food security by linking existing groups and projects, making it easier for them to do their own work and reach shared goals.

Provide support for vulnerable populations, such as those living on low income, single parents, or children, to help to increase their participation in healthy eating and food security programs or services.

Support programs that build food skills and knowledge needed to produce, prepare, and access healthy and nutritional foods. These programs include community kitchens, community gardens, and coupon programs targeted at those who experience barriers to accessing healthy foods, such as low income families and seniors.

McBride's Open Gate Garden is a lively community garden that provides a social hub and opportunities for learning - planned and implemented by the Robson Valley Community Literacy Task Group.

Partner with farm to school programs and farm to cafeteria programs to connect institutions to local farms with the objective of increasing access to healthy food, improving nutrition, and providing education on agriculture, health and nutrition, and supporting local and regional farmers. Examples: Oliver's Farm to School, Abbotsford: Agriculture in the Classroom.viii