Understanding the Healthy choices: policy directive for Victorian public health services

The Victorian Government has introduced the ‘Healthy choices: policy directive for Victorian public health services’ (the Policy directive).  

On this page:


The Policy directive strengthens Victorian public health services as places that support the health and wellbeing of their staff and visitors. It requires services to ensure that healthier food and drinks are sold, provided and promoted across all of their sites and facilities.  

It covers in-house retail food outlets, all vending machines, all staff/visitor catering, and items purchased by staff and visitors from patient/resident menus. 

Updated Advice - August 2022


The Department of Health and the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS) acknowledge current pressures on Victorian health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are taking a flexible approach to implementing the Healthy choices policy directive. We congratulate and recognise the significant efforts and progress already made by health services towards meeting this policy. HEAS will continue to support and meet with all health services to assist them in their progress. Health services are encouraged to contact HEAS if they are having any difficulties meeting the Policy directive requirements.   










Video one: an overview of the Policy Directive for health service leadership











Video two: an overview of the Policy Directive for health promotion and implementation staff

Why has it been developed? 

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. 

Who does the policy apply to?

The Policy directive applies to all sites and facilities across public health services including, but not limited to: 

  • hospitals 
  • 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 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

*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).

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 privately managed. This includes retail outlets that have food supplied from an inpatient/resident food service, managed by an external contractor.

What has changed?

The Policy directive is based on the existingHealthy choices: food and drink classification guide and policy guidelines for hospitals and health servicesfor food, with a new requirement for sugary (or RED category) drinks not to be sold, provided or promoted in any in-house managed retail food outlets, all vending and all catering. It is now a Department of Health policy that Victorian public health services implement the Healthy choices: policy directive for in-house managed food retail, all vending and all staff/visitor catering.

For more information on sugary drinks click here.


The Policy directive has targets for drinks and food. 

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.  
Catering: No RED drinks are provided (with majority of options to be GREEN). 
Vending and in-house food retail food outlets*: At least 50% GREEN foods and no more than 20% RED foods are available. No RED foods to be promoted/advertised. 
Catering: No RED foods are provided (with majority of options to be GREEN). 

*including items purchased by staff and visitors from patient/resident menus

Visit FoodChecker to determine the classification of foods and drinks. 

For more information on vending plan-o-grams click here.


Public health services will have access to the Policy directive reporting tool - Progress Tracker during reporting time (September 2023).

We have developed a dedicated page on understanding and assessing your drink provision and promotion against the drinks targets within the Policy directive. Click here to access these resources.


HEAS are the experts in supporting health services to understand and implement the Healthy Choices guidelines and Policy directive.

We can help your organisation to meet the Policy directive with:

  • Coaching and training for staff on implementing the Healthy Choices guidelines
  • Assistance with engaging with staff and contractors, and developing organisational policies
  • Tailored advice on healthier menus, recipes and products
  • Access to online menu assessments, using FoodChecker

Get started – click here

Working with and supporting food service staff

Food Service Staff Infographic










We have developed a tailored resource for food service staff designed to provide:

  • an overview of the Policy directive 
  • information specific to the needs of working in the kitchen, including tips for meeting the Policy directive

Designed to be printed off and displayed in the kitchen or shared digitally.

Communicating changes and milestones to your stakeholders

Communicating your organisations progress and milestones to stakeholders* is an important part of the Policy directive implementation process.

*stakeholders include management, all staff (including medical, administrative and food service staff) as well as visitors and suppliers if your communication tools are accessible to them (such as newsletters and social media).

How to use this communications kit

This communications kit contains a collection of topics about the Policy directive including implementation progress and key milestones which you can include in newsletters, on your intranet and via social media. Click here to access!