Ontario Public Health Association - Nutrition Connections

In June, 2018, The Helderleigh Foundation entered into a long term multi-year partnership with the Ontario Public Health Association to support “Nutrition Connections,” a centre for nutrition knowledge and collaboration. Together, we are advancing our shared goal of championing food literacy knowledge, policy and practice in Ontario. Nutrition Connections serves over 6000 stakeholders which include health professionals, community organizations, educators, and researchers.


Karen Gough, RD

Program Manager

The Nutrition Connections Team led by Karen Gough includes registered dietitians, program and policy consultants, analysts and coordinators who work together to strengthen the capacity of health promotion professionals throughout Ontario and beyond.

Food Literacy Action Plan

A Food Literacy Action Plan has resulted in:

  • A widely accepted description of food literacy.

  • Hosting annual food literacy forums.

  • Expanding the number of evidenced based articles in the on-line “NC Navigator” reference library.

  • Launch of a knowledge mobilization service assisting academics and researchers to fast track their findings into actionable outcomes. 

  • Enhanced communications through leading evidence based webinars, podcasts, workshops, newsletters and social media.

  • Collaboration with food literacy influencers and stakeholders to determine best ways to move the food literacy for children agenda forward.

  • Launch of a series of reports on the State of Healthy Eating and Food Literacy in Ontario.

The Way Forward

  1. Collection and monitoring of food literacy data, specially the eating attitudes and behaviours of children, youth and parents.

  2. Networking events to support collaboration, food literacy research, policy and programming

  3. Food literacy training, workshops and certification programs

  4. Evaluation and measurements of food skills

The State of Healthy Living and Food Literacy in Ontario

In 2019, Nutrition Connections released two reports and two evidence briefs, with a focus on children, youth, parents and caregivers.


  • Unhealthy eating is estimated to cost Ontarians $5.6B annually in direct health care costs and lost productivity, including $1.8B directly from inadequate vegetable and fruit consumption.

  • Addressing unhealthy eating is essential to reducing the social and economic burden of chronic diseases.

  • Shifts to diets high in ultra-processed and convenience foods and eating outside of the home, has negatively impacted the heath of Canadians.

  • Being food literate is an important precursor to following a dietary pattern that supports health.

  • The elimination of home economics programs from Ontario schools has resulted in a generation of children and young parents lacking food literacy and food skills.

  • Being food literate is important to help children and adults navigate a complex food environment and enable them to make healthy food choices that satisfy their food  preferences, cultural traditions, and nutritional needs.

  • Food literacy is particularly important in the early years, when children are developing the eating patterns and skills that they will carry into adult and pass on to future generations.

Children, their Parents & Caregivers Can Lead the Way

  • Studies indicate that successful intervention with children, especially under the age of 10 years, have an 85% likelihood of maintaining healthy eating habits lasting a lifetime.

  • Having and demonstrating a positive relationship with food is essential.

  • Most effective food education programming is holistic, pragmatic, sensory based, experimental and fun.

  • Involving children in the garden, in planning and preparation of meals and snacks, with hands on exploration, sets the foundation for food literacy knowledge.