Skip to content

The Food Environment explained


Do you ever wonder why we leave shops with food we didn’t plan to buy? Why we go for a walk on the beach and end up with a coffee and a bun? Even when we go to play sports, we can still end up buying a bar of chocolate.

It is because of our food environment - the food that surrounds us. 

The food environment is the food we see around us. It shapes our decisions about food. It includes places where we make decisions about food such as where we live, work and come together. It is food and drink that is available, affordable and advertised to us. 

A child’s food environment is the food they eat or see around them every day. It is the food and drink in their eyeline in shops. It’s the adverts they see on bus shelters, on TV, and on their mobiles and tablets. It’s the food on sale in sports centres and play centres, and it’s the food often associated with their favourite toy, cartoon character, sport or movie.

It’s the same as we get older. Unhealthy food and drink is all around us. Deep-fried foods, sugary drinks, pastries, crisps, sweets and chocolate are everywhere we look. Unhealthy snacks surround us when we queue at the checkout. Main streets are swamped with takeaway and fast-food outlets. Supermarket shelves are full of bargain offers for unhealthy food and drink. 

We are bombarded with marketing messages and promotions for these foods on TV, radio, outdoor posters and online. The food industry works hard to attract us to their products and get us to eat more of them. We know that children are particularly targeted, and it is affecting their health.

This has to change. We need to make healthy eating possible for every child, in every community. We need to transform our food environment. 

What can we do? 

We know that children are increasingly at risk of food-related ill-health. To stop this, we need to build a healthier food environment so that healthy eating is possible for every child, in every community. 

The first step is being aware of the food that surrounds us and how we are encouraged to buy unhealthy food at every turn. Talk to friends and family about what a healthy food environment would look like. And follow the #TalkAboutFood conversation on the Safefood social channels.


Related pages


Safefood Logo

Sign up for our family focused healthy eating and food safety news.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.

Confirm