About the Project
Our researchers review Local School Wellness Policies from public districts, charters and private schools that participate in federally sponsored nutrition programs. Participating districts, charters, and private schools are mandated to have a Local School Wellness Policy. We reviewed policies from before and after the publication of the Final Rule of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. The goal of this evaluation project is to inform policy decisions at the district and school level by providing evaluation data and tools for success.
What is a Local School Wellness Policy?
A Local School Wellness Policy is a set of policies and procedures that govern nutrition and physical activity for students at school. At the district level, Local School Wellness Policies are created by a school wellness committee comprised of staff, administrators, parents, and community members.
Research suggests that high quality Local School Wellness Policies are associated with positive school practices and outcomes for students. These include healthier food options, increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable intake, and lower risk of student obesity.
How do we evaluate Local School Wellness Policies?
We evaluated Local School Wellness Policies from Wisconsin public districts, charters, and private schools that participate in federally-sponsored nutrition programs for the breadth and strength of language that addresses 74 research-based best practices for supporting student health. These best practices are organized into six content areas:
Nutrition Education: Includes nutrition curriculum or lessons at all grade levels
School Meals: Includes nutrition standards for school meal programs
Competitive Foods: Includes nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold and served during the school day outside of the school meals programs
Physical Education & Physical Activity: Includes PE curriculum and opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day
Wellness Promotion & Marketing: Includes health promotion strategies, staff modeling, and guidelines for marketing
Implementation, Evaluation, and Communication: Includes active wellness committees with community-wide representation
The 74 best practices come from the WellSAT 2.0, a publicly available evaluation tool that allows districts and schools to rate the quality of language in their Local School Wellness Policies.
The WellSAT was developed by researchers at the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
You can evaluate your own policy and find out more about the WellSAT 2.0 tool at www.wellsat.org.
To evaluate whether updated local school wellness policies addressed different aspects of the 2016 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, we assigned WellSAT items to different parts of the mandates.
For a mandate to be noted as “Partially or Fully Addressed” your district’s policy must have included language that addressed at least one of the bullet points under each mandate (see below). If we couldn’t find language that met any of these criterion, we marked that mandate as “Not Addressed.” Click on each of the Federal Mandates to view assigned policy language.
+ Nutrition Education Nutrition education teaches behavior focused skills and may be offered as part of a comprehensive, standards-based program designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to safeguard their health and make positive choices regarding food and nutrition.
- There is a standards-based nutrition curriculum, healthy education curriculum or other curriculum that includes nutrition.
- Links nutrition education with the school food environment.
- Nutrition education teaches skills that are behavior-focused.
+ Nutrition Promotion Includes goals for nutrition promotion that are designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the LEA determines is appropriate.
- Addresses staff not modeling healthy eating/drinking behaviors.
- Specifies marketing/ways to promote healthy food and beverage choices.
- Specifies that family wellness activities will be planned to take place at school and will include nutrition and physical activity components.
- Links nutrition education with the school food environment
- Specifies strategies to increase participation in school meal programs
+ Wellness Policy Leadership LEAs must establish wellness policy leadership of one or more district or school officials with the authority and responsibility to ensure compliance.
- Designates a leader in each school accountable for ensuring compliance within the school
- Addresses assessment of school wellness policy implementation/progress towards wellness goals
+ School Meal Standards Includes nutrition guidelines selected by the LEA for all foods available on each school campus during the school day with the objectives of promoting student health and reducing childhood obesity. Provides an assurance that guidelines for reimbursable school meals shall not be less restrictive than regulations and guidance issued by the Secretary of Agriculture pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of section 10 of the Child Nutrition Act and sections 9(f)(1) and 17(a)), as those regulations and guidance apply to schools.
- Addresses compliance with USDA nutrition standards for reimbursable meals.
+ Other Wellness Promotion Includes other goals for school-based wellness promotion in a manner that the LEA determines is appropriate.
- Links nutrition education with the school environment
- Ensures annual training for food and nutrition services staff in accordance with USDA Professional Standards
- District addresses active transport for all students
- District addresses before and after school physical activity for all students
- Addresses staff involvement in physical activity opportunities at all schools
- Addresses family and community engagement in physical activity opportunities at all schools
- District provides teachers with training on how to include physical activity in their classrooms
- Joint or shared-use agreements for physical activity participation at all schools
- Specifies that family wellness activites will be planned to take place at school and will include nutrition and physical activity components
+ Physical Activity Includes goals for physical activity that are designed to promote student wellness in a manner that the LEA determines is appropriate.
- There is a physical education curriculum for all grades.
- The physical education curriculum is aligned with national and/or state physical education standards.
- Addresses the development of a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP) plan at each school
- Addresses active transport for all students
- Addresses before and after school physical activity for all students.
+ Smart Snack Standards Includes nutrition standards for food sold or served outside of the School Meals program (competitive foods).
- Addresses compliance with USDA nutrition standards for all foods sold to students during the school day (commonly referred to as Smart Snacks).
- Addresses compliance with USDA minimum nutrition standards for all beverages sold to students during the school day (commonly referred to as Smart Snacks).
+ Standards for Foods Provided Includes nutrition standards or guidelines for other non-sold foods and beverages made available on the school campus during the school day.
- Regulates food served at class parties and other school celebrations in elementary schools
- Regulates food sold for fundraising
+ Public Involvement LEAs are required to notify households on an annual basis of the availability of the local school wellness policy information and provide information that would enable interested households to obtain additional details.
- Progress report on compliance/implementation is made to the public
- Addresses methods for communicating with the public
- Specifies how district will engage families to provide information and/or solicit input to meet district nutrition/physical activity goals
+ Triennial Assessment Each LEA is required to assess compliance with its local school wellness policy and make this assessment available to the public at least once every three years.
- Requires triennial assessment and includes compliance with the wellness policy, how the wellness policy compares to model wellness policies, and progress made in attaining the goals of the wellness policy
+ Marketing In-school marketing of food and beverages items must meet competitive foods standards.
Addresses the restriction of marketing of food and beverages that cannot be sold to students during the school day (do not meet USDA Smart Snack nutrition standards):
- On signs, scoreboards, and sports equipment
- In curricula, textbooks, and websites used for educational purposes, or other educational materials, both printed and electronic
- On exteriors of vending machines, food or beverage cups or containers, food display racks, coolers, trash and recycling containers, etc.
- On advertisements in school publications, on school radio stations, in-school television, computer screen savers and/or school-sponsored Internet sites, or annoucements on the public announcement (PA) system
- On fundraisers and corporate-sponsored programs that encourage students and their families to sell, purchase or consume products and/or provide funds to schools in exchange for consumer purchases of those products
We reviewed policies two times. First, we reviewed policies from before the 2016 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act’s Final Rule was published. Then we reviewed policies that were updated before June 2018. District, CESA-level, and statewide results presented on our website reflect policies from 232 public districts that updated their policies during that time.
We received policies either directly on district websites, or from districts sending us their policies. All participating school districts received an electronic evaluation report with their results, along with hard copies of the report mailed in March, 2019. If your district did not receive a report, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to view statewide and regional results.
If your district updated its policy between August 2016 and June 2018, you can view results customized to your district. Click here to view district results. You will need the Unique District ID code from your district’s evaluation report to get started.
Each of the content areas receives two scores that reflect:
Comprehensiveness, or how many best practices within a content area are addressed
Strength, or how many best practices within a content area are required using clear, specific policy language
Scores range from 0 to 100 for each content area. Policies also receive overall comprehensiveness and strength scores.
For federal mandates, we calculated the percent of districts in a CESA and statewide that addressed each mandate.