Healthy choices: policy directive for Victorian public health services
This policy directs public hospitals and health services to ensure that healthier food and drinks are sold, provided and promoted at their facilities. This helps reinforce health services as places that support the health and wellbeing of their staff and visitors.
Why you need to know the policy
Health services have a key leadership role in providing healthier food and drink options to support the health and wellbeing of their staff and visitors.
The Policy directive is about increasing opportunity and choice for staff and visitors in public health services to access healthy food and drink options, and will help meet the Victorian Cancer Plan target of ‘at least 80 per cent of health services’ retail outlets and vending machines meeting Healthy Choices by 2024.
We congratulate and recognise the significant efforts and progress already made by health services towards meeting this policy. The Healthy Eating Advisory Service will continue to support and meet with all health services to assist them in their progress. Health services are encouraged to contact the Healthy Eating Advisory Service if they are having any difficulties meeting the Policy directive requirements.
The policy applies to
The Policy directive applies to all sites and facilities across public health services including, but not limited to:
- public sector residential aged care services (PSRACS)
- integrated community health services
The Policy directive applies to the following food services within public health services:
- in-house managed retail food outlets, including items purchased by staff and visitors from patient/resident menus
- all vending machines (managed in-house and privately)
- all catering* provided to visitors and staff
Victorian public health services are encouraged to implement the Healthy Choices: policy guidelines for hospitals and health services and the Policy directive across all of their retail food outlets – both in-house and commercially managed. This includes retail outlets that have food supplied from an inpatient/resident food service, managed by an external contractor.
* Catering applies to staff procuring food and drinks with health service (government funds) for meetings, functions, and events. This includes occasions such as workshops, conferences, community events, launches, celebrations and ceremonies, as well as client or community education, information, or training programs.
It also includes food/drinks provided (free) on the ward or in staff rooms/waiting rooms for staff/visitors (e.g. tea/coffee, water, fruit, biscuits, lollies). Whilst not included in the Policy directive, health services are encouraged to promote and communicate their healthy catering policy to any external groups using their facilities, for example community support groups.
The food and drink targets
|Vending and in-house retail* food outlets:|
No RED drinks to be available or promoted/advertised. At least 50% GREEN drinks, and no more than 20% drinks containing artificial or intense sweeteners (classified AMBER) are available.
|Vending and in-house retail* food outlets:
At least 50% GREEN foods and no more than 20% RED foods are available. No RED foods to be promoted or advertised.
Combination food and drink vending machines:
At least 50% GREEN items (combination of foods and drinks)
no more than 20% AMBER artificially sweetened drinks and
no more than 20% RED foods are available (no RED drinks allowed).
no RED foods to be promoted/advertised.
No RED drinks are provided (with majority of options to be GREEN).
No RED food is provided (with majority of options to be GREEN).
Health services will use the dedicated Policy directive assessment function in FoodChecker to assess foods and drinks against the Policy directive targets.
The FoodChecker Policy directive assessment function allows you to assess your internally managed retail food outlets, vending machines and catering against the Policy directive targets.
Reporting to the Department of Health
Please note that only the FoodChecker assessments you choose to submit in this online portal will be visible to the Department of Health.
Not only does the Progress Tracker tool serve as a reporting mechanism to the Department of Health, but it is a valuable tool for health services to plan, track, communicate and celebrate implementation of Healthy Choices within their individual organisation.
[Text displayed on screen] Healthy choices – Policy directive for Victorian public health services.
In April 2021, the Victorian government announced the Healthy Choices Policy Directive for Victorian Public Health Services.
This policy directive ensures that Victorian public health services sell, provide and promote healthier food and drinks in their facilities.
I’m Bridget Dietitian from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service, and I’m going to walk you through the policy Directive and what it means for your health service. These changes will apply to any items for purchase via in house retail food outlets, all vending machines, staff and visitor catering, as well as items purchased by staff via patient or resident menus. Health services are encouraged to also implement the policy in their commercial retail outlets. By September 30, 2022, your service will no longer be able to sell, provide, or promote high sugar red category drinks.
It must provide at least 50% green drinks and no more than 50% amber drinks, with no more than 20% of these being artificially sweetened. By September 30, 2023, your service will be required to meet the Healthy Choices Guidelines for food, meeting the targets of at least 50% green food and no more than 20% red food independent of drinks and no red food is to be provided through catering.
Health services will be required to demonstrate that they meet these requirements to the Department of Health via specified reporting methods and time frames.
Further information about this will be provided to health services by the Department.
By making these changes, your service will be joining the significant number of health services already doing great work in this space, each of whom have demonstrated positive responses from staff and visitors and pleasing results to their bottom line. You play an important role in this implementation and will be a vital part of engaging and assisting both leadership and food service staff to understand and adopt these changes.
The Healthy Eating Advisory Service are the experts in Healthy Choices implementation and are here to help you and your organization. We offer free, tailored support to help you engage management and food service staff and assess your menu to meet the requirements of the Policy Directive.
Together, we have an opportunity to positively influence. Food and drinks provided to your staff and visitors to increase the number of healthier options available and to support the health and wellbeing of all who access your health service.
[Text displayed on screen] Contact the Healthy Eating Advisory Service, www.heas.health.vic.gov.au, 1300 22 52 88.
Health services are congratulated on the significant work they are undertaking to progress toward meeting the Healthy choices: Policy directive for Victorian public health services 2023 targets. The Healthy Eating Advisory Service’s Nutrition Policy Advisors will again support health services to submit FoodChecker reports into Progress Tracker from 1 September.
For Policy directive reporting in 2023, health services should review their drink supply and ensure any changes to drinks fridges or vending machines are reflected in FoodChecker. Any new vending machines or drinks fridges should also be added to FoodChecker.
To be ready for 2023 reporting, health services are reminded of what is required for food and drink reporting
2023 food reporting
Health services will submit either three or five days’ worth of food retail outlet or patient menu information from FoodChecker into Progress Tracker. A three or five day assessment is required for each relevant retail outlet or patient menu. You can find more information on which applies to you here.
Health services are required to nominate whether they have a catering guide/policy/process to contribute to their Policy directive reporting. HEAS Nutrition Policy Advisors can support health services by reviewing these documents. Further information on developing a healthy eating policy can be found here.
One FoodChecker assessment is required per food vending machine layout.
Mixed vending machines reported on during 2022 should be updated to ensure food is accurate.
2023 Drinks reporting
For drinks reporting, health services will submit FoodChecker reports demonstrating that their drinks still meet the Policy directive. These can be copied in FoodChecker from 2022 reporting and updated accordingly. Any new vending machines or fridges should also be added to FoodChecker for Policy directive reporting.
Health services will confirm or update their previously submitted retail drinks data. Reports for fridges that have not changed since last year can use the ‘copy & edit’ function in FoodChecker to resubmit into Progress Tracker.
Health services will confirm or update their previously submitted drinks vending data. Reports for machines that have not changed since last year can use the ‘copy & edit’ function in FoodChecker to resubmit into Progress Tracker.
*Victorian public health services are encouraged to implement the Healthy choices: policy guidelines for hospitals and health services and the Policy directive across all their retail food outlets – both in-house and privately managed. This includes retail outlets that have food supplied from an inpatient/resident food service, managed by an external contractor.
How to count food and drink items for FoodChecker data entry
To simplify and streamline the counting process for health services, a new counting process has been determined. This new counting method only applies to retail outlets, it does not apply to vending machines or drinks fridges.
To help you easily understand the new counting method watch the video below.
Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.